Reducing the risk of osteoporosis

Aside Posted on Updated on

World Osteoporosis Day/Stop at One and World Menopause Day 2014

The 20th October World Osteoporosis Day follows hot on the heels of World Menopause Day (October18). These global events provide an important platform for raising awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and for promoting the health and well-being of menopausal women. The National Osteoporosis Society’s ‘Stop at One’ campaign sits particularly well with the theme of this year’s World Menopause Day – ‘prevention of diseases after the menopause’.

By Janet Bowman, Osteoporosis Nurse at the National Osteoporosis Society. 

The menopause, which is sometimes called the ‘change of life’, is a natural phase of your life where you no longer have menstrual periods. It occurs when your ovaries begin to fail and produce lower levels of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Natural menopause is said to have been reached when you have gone without a period for 12 months – you are then considered to be postmenopausal.

It is now well established that the hormone oestrogen helps to maintain healthy bones. Osteoporosis (fragile bones that break relatively easily e.g. after a simple fall) is a significant complication after the menopause and affects a large number of women. This is because bone loss becomes more rapid following the menopause due to decreasing oestrogen levels.

The average age of menopause is around 50 so if you fall into this age group it is important to be aware of osteoporosis and to look at ways of reducing your risk for this condition. Also as you move past the menopause a broken bone or fracture becomes more significant and is more likely to be a sign of bone fragility and osteoporosis. If the above applies to you, or if you are not sure, speak to your doctor or health care practitioner about your risk for further fractures. Your doctor may well suggest this is the right time to consider all your risk factors. This assessment may include a bone density scan to determine the amount of bone in your skeleton which will help with decisions about whether or not you would benefit from a drug treatment for osteoporosis.

The menopause presents a very good opportunity to consider the following lifestyle changes:

  • eat a healthy balanced diet this will provide you with all the minerals vitamins and nutrients you need. Include plenty of calcium rich foods – good sources comprise dairy products, green leafy vegetables and fish with bones (such as tinned sardines). Getting sensible exposure to sunlight in the summer months will increase your vitamin D levels. If you’re not getting enough, a calcium and/or vitamin D supplement may be recommended by your doctor.
  • undertake regular weight bearing exercise to help maintain your bone health –jogging, brisk walking, aerobics, and dancing are good examples – most importantly stay active and choose something you enjoy
  • stop or avoid smoking –it has a harmful effect on bone
  • cut down on alcohol and stick to the recommended limits. Excessive alcohol intake increases your risk of osteoporosis and broken bones (fractures).

If you want to know more see the National Osteoporosis Society’s ‘Stop at One’ campaign

If you’d find it helpful to speak to osteoporosis nurses with specialist knowledge contact the Charity’s Helpline: 0845 450 0230

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By Janet Bowman, Osteoporosis Nurse, National Osteoporosis Society

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