Women’s Health Week – Bone Health For Women
It’s Women’s Health Week 2022, so let’s talk about the importance of bone health in women and how you can look after your bone health to prevent or reduce your risk of bone fracture and/or osteoporosis.
As we age, our risk of poor bone health and osteoporosis increases. Over 1 million Australians suffer from osteoporosis, a preventable disease, and women are more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia compared to men.
What are Osteopenia and Osteoporosis?
Osteopenia refers to a loss in bone density leading to a reduction in bone mass and strength. This is the level of bone density between normal bone density and osteoporosis. If you are osteopenic, you have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis refers to a more severe loss of bone density and strength due to the body absorbing bone quicker than it can replace it. Primarily, osteoporosis is found within the spine (26%), the hip (16%), the wrist (16%), and may also be found in other areas of the body (22%).
Osteoporosis may lead to an increased risk of fracture. 173,000 fractures occur yearly as a result of poor bone health, with hip fractures being the most serious and costly type. 1 in 2 Australian women after the age of 60 will experience a fracture related to osteoporosis. Unfortunately, fractures may lead to chronic pain, disability, a loss of independence, reduced quality of life, and in severe cases, premature death.
Risk factors for Osteoporosis include:
- Having a family history of osteoporosis or osteopenia
- Low Calcium and/or Vitamin D intake – Calcium is important for building and maintaining bone strength as we age, and Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption
- Lifestyle factors – such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake and low levels of physical activity
- Body build/weight – such as a thin body build, anorexia nervosa, or obesity
- Low hormones – a reduction in hormones is experienced during early menopause
- Illness / medical conditions – Coeliacs disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, and rheumatoid arthritis may impact bone health
- Some medications – corticosteroids and certain breast cancer treatments may also influence bone health
So how do you ensure you are reducing your risk of poor bone health or preventing a further reduction in bone density and strength?
Our Tips for good bone health & reducing your risk of Osteoporosis:
- Ensure adequate levels of vitamin D – exposure to sunlight is the main source of vitamin D in Australia. Spending 5-10 minutes in the sun on most days of the week in summer before 10 am or after 3 pm, and in winter aim for 1 hour outside during the day. Always wear sunscreen. If you do not spend enough time outdoors or are low in vitamin D, supplementation may be an option for you as advised by your doctor.
- Maintain a healthy diet – ensuring you eat a balanced diet inclusive of 3 servings of calcium per day, or discuss with your doctor about appropriate calcium supplements if you are low in calcium. Some calcium-rich foods include cheese, milk, eggs, chicken, salmon, strawberries, or leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, and kale.
- Engage in regular physical activity – including weight-bearing exercise & resistance training as per the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines. Falls prevention exercises, with a focus on balance, are also important for those at risk of, or currently suffering from, osteopenia or osteoporosis.
- Quit or reduce smoking and reduce your alcohol intake
- Have regular checkups with your doctor – specifically, after the age of 50 years old, if you have a family history of osteoporosis, are early menopausal, or if you experience any signs of poor bone health.
- Have a bone density Scan (DEXA) – your doctor may request a scan to determine your bone density levels as these scans can be used to diagnose osteoporosis.
Benefits of Seeing an Osteopath:
Poor bone health may lead to unexplained back pain, a change in posture (i.e. stooped posture), a reduction in height, and it increases your risk of fracture. Osteopaths are able to assist in the rehabilitation and treatment of bone fractures, back, wrist, and hip pain, and those with chronic pain as a result of osteoporosis.
- Improvement in body function, mobility, flexibility, and overall quality of life
- An individualized exercise management plan, including resistance and weight-bearing exercises, to reduce your risk of falls and fractures, improve strength, and improve or maintain bone density
- Hands-on treatment to reduce muscle tension, joint stiffness, and pain associated with osteoporosis
- Treat existing injuries that may be impacting your ability to engage in a proactive approach to osteoporosis prevention
At Equilibrium Sports and Spinal clinic, we thrive on helping our local community who may need help with improving or maintaining their bone health. Our Osteopaths service Malvern, Glen Iris, Ashburton, Hawthorn, Toorak, South Yarra, Camberwell, and Caulfield.