Your bones are your body’s framework: they quite literally hold you up and give your body its strong, protected structure. They’re also integral for movement. Unfortunately, women are often at higher risk of osteoporosis, or bone weakening, especially as they age.
The good news is that you can support your bone health with the right combination of diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle factors. Here’s everything you need to know about osteoporosis in women, including risk factors, signs, and how to support strong healthy bones.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis, which literally translates to “porous bones,” is a condition in which your bone tissue loses its mass and density. This can make your bones weaker and more brittle, and it can also increase your risk of bone fractures.
Your bones are made up of several minerals including calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. They go through a regular cycle called bone turnover. During bone turnover, old bone tissue is broken down while new bone tissue is being built. If someone has osteoporosis, their bones break down at a faster rate than new bone is being built, which can ultimately lead to less bone density and subsequent weakness.
Osteoporosis can happen to almost anyone, but it’s especially common among older adults. In addition, women are much more likely to experience osteoporosis than men. In fact, some studies estimate that women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis!
So why does osteoporosis affect more women than men, exactly? This comes down to one simple answer: hormones.
More specifically, the female sex hormone estrogen plays a significant role in the bone turnover cycle. If someone has less estrogen than normal, they may experience a slower rate of bone regrowth, ultimately leading to an overall loss of bone tissue.
Because of this, going through menopause can greatly increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Menopause is a period that is marked by fluctuations in female sex hormones including estrogen. Ultimately, your estrogen levels take a sharp dive down, which can then increase your risk of osteoporosis and, subsequently, your risk of bone fractures.
Being underweight. Smaller-framed individuals tend to have a higher risk of bone fracture, especially if they have less bone density to begin with. Similarly, a poor diet (specifically one that is lacking in calcium and vitamin D) may also increase your chances of developing osteoporosis over time since these nutrients are important for bone development.
A family history of osteoporosis. Your risk of osteoporosis can also increase if it is in your family history. Some races are also more likely to experience osteoporosis than others. For example, white and Asian women have a higher risk of osteoporosis than others. However, the risk of osteoporosis after menopause increases in women of every race.
Some medications. Glucocorticosteroids, certain cancer medications, and other medications may increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Some medical conditions. You might also be at a higher risk of poor bone density if you suffer from certain medical conditions including endocrine diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, anorexia, and/or gastrointestinal diseases that affect your ability to absorb nutrients.
Unhealthy lifestyle factors. Finally, unhealthy behaviors like smoking and/or excessive alcohol consumption may also increase your risk.
Signs of osteoporosis
Even though osteoporosis is so common, it doesn’t always come with many obvious warning signs. In fact, it’s often classified as a “silent disease” since there may not be any apparent signs that you have osteoporosis, but your risk of serious bone fractures is still high.
However, some possible signs of later-stage osteoporosis include:
- Back pain
- Stooped posture
- Loss of height
If you are a woman over the age of 65, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested for osteoporosis. They can run tests and administer questionnaires to determine whether an osteoporosis diagnosis is appropriate.
Natural ways to support bone health
While the slower bone turnover rate may be inevitable as you grow older, you can take control with some healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle interventions.
1. Incorporate plenty of strengthening exercises into your workout routine.
Strength training workouts like weightlifting and bodyweight workouts are great for building muscle, but researchers have also found that they are effective for building bone density! If you’re brand-new to strength training, consider joining a group class or working with a personal trainer to make sure that you’re performing the exercises correctly and safely. This can help prevent any potential injuries.
2. Prioritize your calcium and vitamin D intake.
A healthy, nutritious diet is one of the cornerstones for strong, healthy bones. In particular, you should prioritize getting enough calcium, which is a key mineral that is used to build your bones. In addition, you also want to get enough vitamin D and magnesium, which can help your body properly absorb all of the calcium necessary for your bone structure.
Good sources of calcium include dairy, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Vitamin D is best found in eggs, mushrooms, and fatty fish like tuna and salmon. Magnesium is found in a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and several fruits and vegetables. If you need extra help getting enough calcium, consider using a supplement like Ionic-Fizz™ Super D-K Calcium Plus™, which has all of the nutrients you need to support bone health.*
3. Avoid smoking and excessive drinking.
Both of these behaviors can negatively impact your bone density. Consider limiting or quitting both behaviors completely for the best impact on your bone health.
Women are more likely to get osteoporosis, especially after menopause. Take care of your body and bones by giving it the right nutrients and exercise it needs, and limit potentially harmful behaviors like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.