Change of life
Women generally have smaller bones than men and also experience a rapid decline in the production of the hormone oestrogen during the menopause. Women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men. When you're younger, estrogen helps protect your bones, but once you enter menopause, estrogen levels plummet, which means that your chance of developing osteoporosis may increase.
When oestrogen levels decrease, the bones lose calcium and other minerals at a much faster rate. As a result, bone loss of approximately 2% per year occurs for several years after menopause and you can lose up to 20 percent of your bone density in the first five to seven years following menopause. Men also have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis as they age but this occurs later than women.
Getting enough dietary calcium and vitamin D along with weight-bearing exercises are the basic but all important steps toward maintaining bone strength and bone health throughout life. Calcium is particularly important at the time of menopause, because calcium absorption slows down, due to low levels of oestrogen
Studies on older adults show that adequate calcium intake and vitamin D3 can lower the risk of fractures.
A deficiency in calcium can cause bones to become brittle on the inside and therefore they break very easily. Every cell in our body, including those in the heart, nerves and muscles rely on calcium. Calcium is also necessary for your body to form blood clots.
The building blocks for good bone health
In general bone density gradually begins to decline as we age and most of us also become less active. An unhealthy lifestyle and not getting enough of the three important building blocks for good bone health -calcium, vitamin D and exercise- will also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Making positive lifestyle choices as children or adults can help many people lower their risk for osteoporosis and other bone issues that increase with age.
Along with regular exercise, not smoking and limiting alcohol, diet plays an important role in building and maintaining healthy bones throughout the lifespan, particularly during the key postmenopausal period. Including the daily recommended amounts of dairy products, such as yogurt and milk, to obtain adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, protein and other bone supporting nutrients can help you set the stage for good bone health throughout the rest of your life.
Exercise, healthy eating and other lifestyle changes can slow the bone loss that usually occurs as we age and may help to reduce the risk of our bones breaking. If you are new to exercise or thinking of starting something new, choose an activity that is compatible with your lifestyle, that you enjoy and that is effective for improving bone strength. Exercise can also help speed rehabilitation following a fracture.
Not all forms of exercise stimulate bone. Exercise that is useful for reducing the risk of heart disease will not necessarily build bone density. Swimming and cycling, for example, are excellent forms of exercise for improving the fitness and function of the heart and lungs, but these activities are not weight-bearing and do not affect bone density.