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  • 15.12.23

Building stronger bones: What you need to know about osteopenia and osteoporosis

When it comes to taking care of your health and well-being, bone health is frequently overlooked, even though our bones are among the most critical elements of our bodies. We had a chat with one of Grace Private’s Specialist Women’s Health GPs, Dr Anna Alderton, to learn more about the importance of bone health and what we can do to protect it as we age. 

Bone Health – Osteopenia and osteoporosis

It all starts with something called ‘peak bone mass’, which is what we reach in our early 20s. From here it stays relatively stable, until our 40s, when things start to change! While you may think bone issues won’t be of concern until menopause, your bones can start to change during perimenopause, the period before menopause begins. 

Osteopenia and osteoporosis are both bone conditions that primarily affect women. Osteopenia indicates low bone density and is the precursor to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis leads to fragile and easily fractured bones. 

Bone health – The risk factors

There are a few potential risk factors for osteoporosis that can affect your bones from an early age, and as you get older. These include:

  • A predisposition to fractures.
  • Long-term use of certain medications. 
  • Family members with hip fractures. 
  • Low body weight.
  • Steroid use.
  • Smoking tobacco.
  • Excessive drinking.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Health conditions such as celiac disease and early menopause.

Having these risk factors increases the chance of low peak bone mass and loss of bone premenopausal.

The transition to perimenopause and menopause

In perimenopause, it’s common to experience bone loss. Low body weight serves as a good predictor for low bone density, while experiencing low bone density during menopause increases the risk of postmenopausal fractures.

As menopause approaches, maintaining bone health becomes increasingly important. The gradual decline in oestrogen levels during this phase of life is a big factor. Oestrogen is responsible for regulating different functions of your body and plays a critical role in maintaining bone health. 

As well as treating other symptoms of menopause, MHT prevents fractures by maintaining or increasing bone density. It acts as a defence against the effects of bone loss that accompany the hormonal shifts associated with menopause. It works to fortify the foundations of your bones to reduce the risk of fractures. 

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Weight training – how it helps

Weight training is a powerful way to boost bone density. To get the most out of it, aim for a high load that challenges your bones significantly. This translates to lifting a weight heavy enough that you can manage only 4-6 repetitions before it becomes too challenging. 

Remember, bone is a “use it or lose it” tissue. As we age, the risk of fractures increases, especially from falls, with 90% of hip fractures attributed to such accidents. Regular exercise, including weight training, not only enhances bone density but also lowers the risk of fractures by reducing the likelihood of falls. It’s a win-win for your bones and overall well-being!

Other lifestyle changes to prevent bone loss

There are a range of lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce bone loss, including: 

  • Increase calcium intake: Ensure your diet is high in calcium or consult a healthcare professional regarding calcium supplementation. 
  • Adequate sun exposure: It’s not just about soaking up the sun, Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining strong bones and supports other bodily functions. If you don’t have enough sun exposure, vitamin D supplementation may be necessary.
  • Exercise: Engage in weight-bearing exercises to increase bone strength. 
  • Maintain a healthy body weight: A BMI between 20-35 is within a healthy range. 
  • Quit smoking: If you’re a smoker, quitting can help prevent bone loss. 
  • Drink in moderation: Avoid excessive drinking and only drink alcohol in moderation. 

Grace Private – nurturing women’s health

The importance of bone health for women cannot be emphasised enough. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are conditions that can affect your overall well-being and can make a big impact on your quality of life as you age. 

At Grace Private, we recommend regular check-ups and discussions with our GPs to learn about the risk factors and interventions such as Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT), so you can maintain strong bones throughout your life. 

Our Specialist Women’s Health GPs, Dr Anna Alderton, Dr Frances Knight, and Dr Elise Turner, are here to support you every step of the way. Don’t wait – schedule your consultation today and make your bone health a priority. 

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