I have a bone to pick with you…
I knew that would get your attention!
We are obsessed with our fat versus muscle composition as a determinant of good health, but how much attention do you give your bones? Because they need a whole lot more attention.
We all need to be talking about our bone health much more because as it's a silent health epidemic that is almost entirely preventable. Because the thing with osteoporosis is, there are virtually no symptoms until you break a bone. At which point, it's almost inevitably too late.
Make no bones about it, we need to do something
I know, I can't resist.
Women hit their peak bone mass density in our mid-twenties. But bone density is much like our bank balance; without building it up we'll be left short. And this starts from our childhood.
Once we hit our 30s, things start to flatline... And by the time we're in our 70s, our bone density may have reduced by up to 40%.
Osteoporosis costs the NHS £1.7 billion every year and leads to more deaths annually than breast cancer. And yet we're still not talking about it. It blows my mind! A silent disease that impacts 1 in 3 women over 50. Conversely, the risk of us developing breast cancer is 1 in 7.
Yet from 50 years old women are entitled to regular mammograms (and rightly so), yet despite the overwhelming risk for postmenopausal women of developing osteoporosis, there are no preventative screens to assess our bone density.
So, ladies as always, we need to take action into our own hands. Because we can play a huge role in preventing all of the above. But we need to act!
Menopause and bone health
Our bones are not static, they are living tissue; constantly changing and being remodelled. They are formed of 3 types of cells; osteoblasts, osteocytes and osteoclasts. All with their own jobs in terms of building, repairing and breaking down bones.
Oestrogen plays an important role by balancing the rate of bone formation versus resorption (breaking down) of bone cells. However, as we enter peri-menopause and beyond, lower oestrogen levels disrupt this balance and as a result, the breakdown of bones is greater than the rate of new bone formation.
We start to lose bone density in two phases:
1. Trabecular bone (spongy bone) starts to lose density at menopause due to oestrogen deficiency. Therefore, the earlier menopause happens the sooner bone density is affected which is why hormonal replacement therapies (HRT) are an important treatment option for women to consider, especially if you are under 45 years old.
Please consult your GP and/or Women's Health Professional if this is something you are concerned about.
2. 4-8 years after menopause, we start to lose trabecular (spongy) and cortical (hard) bone at a persistent but gradual rate. This is wholly age-related bone loss and occurs in both men and women. The earlier we act in terms of supporting good bone health, the better!
Control the controllables
As with everything, there are things we can control and things we can't.
There are certain factors that may leave us at higher risk to osteoporosis, including:
History of broken bones
Certain medications and drug treatments (e.g. glucocorticoids (steroids), epileptic treatment, breast cancer treatment).
Medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis,
anorexia and Crohns, for example.
Low oestrogen levels (caused by early menopause, oophorectomy (hysterectomy with removal of ovaries before 45), excessive exercise, etc.).
But, the good news is there's a WHOLE LOT of things we can do to help ourselves!
And it starts with the lifestyle choices you make today.
Are you moving your body daily?
Are you building muscle mass through strength-based training?
Are you eating a varied, nutritious and colourful diet to support good gut health?
Are you drinking enough water?
Are you reducing alcohol and caffeine?
Are you improving your balance to prevent falls?
Are you supplementing essential vitamins such as Vitamin D?
These are all very simple choices we can make to build our bone banks.
And I guarantee they'll make you feel pretty good today too! And are you working hard on reducing your 'bone foes'?
It always comes back to the same things, right?
We all know what we should be doing. We know what we should be reducing and we know what we should be doing more of.
It's not about doing all of these things perfectly. It's about taking accountability and trying to do better. Of being more mindful of our choices and remembering that our bodies aren't the same as they perhaps were. Like we need reminding of that! But the simple fact is our bodies are changing and that means we need to change how we treat them.
I'm not going to lie, the stats are really scary. And I don't want to be another stat; I want us to write our own roadmap. And we can do just that.
Because what gives me comfort is;
1. We have time and more resources than ever before. The stats we use today are from generations before us; we have the power to change the narrative for our futures.
2. It is never too late to take control and start making positive changes. Every little thing you do will pay dividends in years to come.
So start today.
And if you have any concerns, such as a family history of osteoporosis or a condition that may heighten your risk, seek professional medical advice on having a DEXA scan to assess your bone density. Don't wait, take control and get all the facts you need to support your long term health.
After all, our health, our accountability.
Love, Emma x
To find out more about strengthening your body from simple movement to regular workouts from Emma Simarro - Click on the image below: