Strategies to keep your bones strong
In my workshops, I talk to women about the importance of bone health because
as our oestrogen declines, it can have a detrimental effect on our bones.
Bone is a dynamic tissue that is constantly breaking down and building up, when there is less oestrogen in the body the process of breaking down is more predominant and it is estimated that some women can lose between 2-3% of their bone mass per year in the first 10 years after menopause.
What about calcium
It’s often thought that bone health is all to do with your intake of calcium but there is a lot more to it than that. We know that the minerals magnesium, boron, and the vitamins D and K are also needed to help us utilise our dietary calcium and ensure it ends up in the bones where it’s needed. So, if you opt for a supplement ensure you get one that covers all of these or that you eat a diet rich in these nutrients.
Why exercise is crucial
Exercise, specifically weight bearing exercise puts a strain on our muscles and this in turn pulls on the bones making them stronger. I like Body Pump (lifting weights to music) but free weights, walking, dancing, yoga, pilates and running are all good. I also use a mini rebounder (see below). And for women that already have osteoporosis, I encourage them to consider a weighted vest to increase that weight bearing load when they’re out for a walk. The Royal Osteoporosis society recommends at least 50 impacts (e.g. jumping) daily.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and it’s role in bone health.
Because oestrogen play a big part in bone health it can be helpful if you feel you’re at risk of osteoporosis – studies show that women taking HRT tend to have stronger bones. Definitely worth a conversation with your GP if you feel you are at risk. Like a lot of women, I was concerned about HRT and the link with breast cancer but now looking at the evidence and listening to the experts in this field, I’ve come to realise that there a lot of benefits to taking HRT and the risk of breast cancer is very low.
When we’re feeling stressed we produce cortisol, known as the stress hormone, and it can have a detrimental impact on bone density – it inhibits the bone building process. Stress is such a subjective thing, but if you find yourself feeling more anxious and rushed than you do feel yourself being at ease, I recommend that you address your stress and find strategies to reduce it.
Individuals who drink regularly tend to have lower bone density. Aim to stay within the recommended limits of 14 units per week – bear in mind a glass of wine is 2.3 units.
So, it important as we reach menopause that we pay attention to our bones.
Aim for 1200mg of calcium per day.
This can be achieved by a combination of diet and supplements (when choosing a supplement look for calcium citrate as this is an easier form to absorb, and bear in mind 500mg is the max we can absorb at any one time so best to spread the dose throughout the day) of course this level can be achieved by diet alone.
Foods high in calcium include
Dairy products – yoghurt, milk, and cheese
Sardines and salmon with soft bones
Chia and flaxseed
Sesame seeds (tahini)
Milk alternatives fortified with calcium
Green leafy vegetables
If you consider yourself high risk you may want to consider a bone supporting supplement that includes magnesium, boron, Vitamin D and K to ensure optimal and safe absorption of calcium.
Vitamin D levels. Optimal – 50-100nmol/L
Recommended daily amount of Vitamin D is 400-800 ius
From October to March it may be necessary to take a supplement as the Earth’s angle to the sun means that the rays are not strong enough for us to synthesise Vitamin D.
April to September it important that we expose as much of our skin to the sun for 20-30 minutes between the hours of 11am-3pm in order for the skin to synthesis Vitamin D, without burning of course. Darker skin types need longer to make Vitamin D whilst fairer skins require less time.
Foods that contain Vitamin D include: salmon, sardines, egg yolks, some mushrooms, and fortified milks. Bear in mind it’s difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from foods alone. However, a fillet of salmon (100g) contains approx. 400 ius and wild salmon almost double that amount.
Stay within your limit of 14 units per week and if possible have 3/4 nights without consuming alcohol. When you do drink, make it a real treat and enjoy the good stuff. You’ll soon find habits like tonic water with lots of ice and lime can replace your alcoholic beverage and you’ll feel a lot better the next morning.
We all need to destress and switch off that ‘go go go’ feeling. Why not try the Calm or Headspace app, just for 10 minutes daily, and or take your tea and coffee outside, walk in nature when you get the chance and engage in activities that you really enjoy such as yoga – great for connecting body and mind or whatever does it for you.
I find that individuals that make these stress relief strategies habitual are more
likely to stick to them and find them beneficial – It’s not instant but as you continue to practice these techniques, you’ll look back and realise you’re less likely to be reactive and rushed in your day to day life.
WEIGHT BEARING EXERCISE
Try and incorporating weight bearing exercise daily, that is exercise with the weight of your body pulling down on your skeleton, such as brisk walking especially up hill, jumping (I like jumping on my rebounder or just on the floor whilst listening to some music or the radio), running, dancing, lifting weights and yoga are all good. The Royal Osteoporosis society recommends to aim for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times weekly of activities that target your legs, arms and spine and to walk daily. Click her for more info
TAKE A GOOD QUALITY MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENT
Magnesium deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and is a crucial mineral when it comes to bone health.
Aim for 300-400mg of magnesium daily either via a supplement or diet. It’s essential that we balance our calcium and magnesium.
The ideal ratio is a 2:1 (calcium to magnesium)
e.g. if taking 600mg calcium you’ll need 300mg magnesium.
If supplementing, look for Magnesium citrate or glycinate as these forms are high bioavailable, meaning they are easier for you to absorb.
Foods high in magnesium include
Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach.
Fruits, figs, avocado, banana and raspberries
Nuts and seeds
Vegetables, peas, brocolli, cabbage, asparagus, brussel sprouts
Whole grains such as brown rice and oats
If you’d like a more individualised programme – then do get in touch…click here
Resources if you’d like to learn more about bones