By the time of menopause -- often around age 50 -- many women discover they have reduced bone density due to a condition called osteoporosis, causing bones to become weak and brittle and more prone to fractures. Ahead of World Osteoporosis Day, Friday, October 20, here's a roundup of some recommendations on how to reduce the risk and keep bones healthy.
Get moving during childhood
Increased exercise -- at least three and a half hours per week -- for young children, during growth but before puberty, can help boost bone density according to recent research. Sports with a high osteogenic (bone-building) effect include soccer, basketball and handball, when practiced young. Playing these team sports at an early age guarantees greater accumulation of bone mass in comparison with low osteogenic-effect sports such as swimming.
Moreover, low bone strength appears to be less of a problem for children who get moving or start walking early, according to a British study published in May 2016.
An anti-inflammatory diet
According to research published in January 2017 in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, women who scored highly on the dietary inflammatory index (DII), a measure of the inflammatory potential of diet, had twice the risk of hip fracture than those eating diets with lower inflammatory potential. A Mediterranean diet -- rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, omega-3 and wholegrain cereals -- may therefore be of interest. Plus, vitamin D (sardines, mackerel, calf's liver, eggs, cod liver oil) is essential for building and regenerating bone.
Calcium, vitamin D and exercise after menopause
Whether a preventative measure or after a fracture, it's important to ensure sufficient calcium intake after menopause by eating foods such as yogurt and cheese, as well as fruit and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and dried fruit and nuts (walnuts, almonds, dried figs). It's also important to keep an eye on sun exposure to help maintain vitamin D levels. Beware of drinking too much coffee or alcohol too. While up to two glasses of red wine can be beneficial for osteoporosis, three can make the condition worse.
When it comes to exercise for preventing the loss of bone mass, walking is a very good compromise for women needing to avoid impact sports but still seeking a cardiovascular workout. Head out for a longer, hour-long walk at the weekend and keep the pace brisk. Or try hiking with nordic walking sticks, for example, to get the upper body and arms moving too. What's more, hopping carefully for two minutes a day could strengthen the hip bones in older people, helping to reduce the risk of fracture in the event of a fall, according to research from the National Center for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM) at Loughborough University in the UK.