I’m definitely showing my age with this reference but I want to talk about Osteoporosis and that’s not nearly as catchy a title. Osteoporosis means porous bones. This is when our bones become structurally weak and are more likely to fracture. I used to think that this was the preserve of ‘old people’ but as I started to reach menopause, I began to think about it and what it meant for me, more and more.
Our bones are not just hard limbs, they are living structures, consisting mostly of collagen, that protein we all seek out as the elixir of youth. Collagen in bones forms a soft framework which is hardened by calcium phosphate to give our bones their strength. 99% of the body’s calcium is contained within our bones and their internal structure is similar to honeycomb, making them rigid yet light and flexible.
Use it or lose it
As we age, our bones can become brittle and more prone to breaking. A fall in an elderly, frail person can so often lead to broken bones and a hospital stay that can all too often mean the end of their life. My aunt who was a GP always used to say that everyone should get on the floor once and a day and get up again as a way of keeping their strength – use it or loose it was her rationale and it’s definitely mine too.
As I always say, if you don’t already know, you’ll get used to me saying this: there are so many things we can do to help ourselves and this is epic news!
Having ageing parents who have neglected their health, for whatever reason (in my Mother’s case alcoholism and depression eclipsed everything else) can be your biggest inspiration not to go down that route and to live to a ripe old age, healthy, fully mobile and full of inspired action.
Muscle mass is Queen
Do everything you can to protect your bones during menopause and work on building muscle mass. This helps to support the production of testosterone levels which in turn improves your insulin sensitivity and prevents obesity, which is another risk factor for osteoporosis.
If you read my blog last week, or unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know that Oestrogen always plays the starring role. In the case of osteoporosis, oestrogen helps prevent bones from getting weaker by slowing their natural breakdown. We all know that oestrogen levels drop during menopause: a drop in Estradiol specifically, which is one of three oestrogen hormones (more in another blog), can also lead to osteoporosis.
D, the sunshine vitamin
Another major player in osteoporosis is vitamin D or rather lack of it. Getting enough vitamin D is so important at this time in our lives because it allows our body to absorb calcium, which is vital for strong bones. Even if you do get enough calcium in your diet, your body won’t absorb it if you don’t get enough vitamin D, so get outside as much as possible, especially in the summer months, and supplement with vitamin D in the winter months. Our bodies make vitamin D when our shadow is shorter than us, which is in the peak summer months in the UK. This is why I love to get away to sunnier climes in January or February to top it up – who’s with me?
Lastly, if you haven’t already, start a weightlifting routine and build gently. Two sessions a week with a really good Personal Trainer is the absolute best way to learn and develop good form and technique so that you can progress to working out three times a week, maybe just one of those with your PT, to keep yourself in check and carry on progressing, and the other two on your own. The boost to your self esteem when you commit to a regular practice is worth its weight in gold.