Whilst jogging in the forest with my Spaniel Bailey this morning, I tripped and fell face down. Putting my hands out to lessen the fall, I turned, scraped my shoulder and banged my knee hard on the ground. Initially dazed I was relieved that nothing appeared to be broken and although a little sore and my knee painful, I hobbled home.
This incident reminded me of the importance of looking after my bones particularly during and post menopause. During your journey through the menopause and the various symptoms you experience, one area you may not be thinking about is your bones.
Apart from the obvious hot flashes, mood changes and night sweats, are you aware that post menopause with the sudden drop in oestrogen levels, we incur rapid loss of bone tissue? When we think of Osteoporosis (and it’s pre-cursor, Osteopaenia) we generally think of old people. Well that’s not us is it? But crucially this is the time when we really do need to ensure that we are doing everything we can do to support our skeleton.
We have oestrogen receptors in our bones which speed up the breakdown of osteoclasts which in turn break up bone tissue. So now with a lack of oestrogen, the bone breaks down faster. Oestrogen also helps calcium absorption through the intestine and so again the rapid decline in oestrogen means it’s harder for calcium to be absorbed and new bone to form.
1 in 3 of us will develop osteoporosis. 40 people a day die in hospitals as a result of an osteoporatic fracture. Not directly perhaps, but being laid up in a hospital bed puts you at a higher risk of a DVT or pneumonia for example. It’s a silent disease.
Other risk factors include; family history – look at photographs of parents, grandparents. Does their upper back appear hunched? Having a small frame, suffering with anorexia to a degree where your periods stopped ( no oestrogen at that time will have impacted on bone development), ovaries removed before the age of 45, inactivity. Heavy drinking and smoking also affect calcium absorption.
What can you do about it?
Fortunately there are things we can do to help prevent Osteopaenia and Osteoporosis.
Ensure that we get plenty of calcium and vitamin D . Magnesium will also help to keep calcium in the blood. Weight bearing exercise, resistance training to keep muscles strong to support our skeleton and even HRT can help. If appropriate for you and your medical history, taking HRT will keep your oestrogen levels high and consequently your bone density.
If you are concerned about your bone health and think you may be at risk, talk to your G.P. about sending you for a DEXA scan (dual energy X-ray absorbtiometry) as this is currently the best form of testing. If your T score is below 1 your G.P will advise you on a course of treatment that’s right for you.
If you would like further help on how to look after your body post menopause, or would like us to give a talk you your group, Mandy or myself would be delighted to hear from you.