How can I look after my bone health during menopause?

Around the time of menopause there are several health areas you need to keep an eye on. Bone health is an important one. The drop of oestrogen that occurs in menopause accelerates the rate of bone loss, which increases the risk of developing osteoporosis.1 A woman can reduce the possibility of getting this debilitating condition and encourage a lifetime of bone health, by following some lifestyle behaviors.

These include:

  • Consuming enough calcium – Calcium is crucial for strong healthy bones and helps reduce bone density loss in post-menopausal women. After the age of 51, a woman’s calcium requirements increase from 1000mg daily to 1300mg daily. It is therefore important that increases in calcium intake are made through the diet and/or supplementation.
  • Improving vitamin D status – Vitamin D is needed to absorb and utilize calcium and is therefore important for maintaining bone health. It also helps to maintain muscle strength and reduce the risk of falls in older individuals. Adequate vitamin D can be obtained by obtaining adequate sunlight, but a supplement may be necessary when exposure is limited. Menopausal women who may benefit from a vitamin D supplement include those who avoid the sun for cosmetic or health reasons, have naturally dark skin or who wear concealing clothing.
  • Exercising regularly – Exercise can help maintain bone strength following menopause by helping to slow the rate of bone loss.2 It can also improve muscle function and decrease the risk of falls.2 The specific types of exercise that have bone protective effects include weight bearing activities, for example brisk walking, jogging, netball, tennis and aerobics, and resistance (strength) training such as lifting hand weights or using gym machines. To support your bone health as you age it is important to perform these types of exercises at least 3 times a week and ensure they get more challenging over time.2
  • Avoiding smoking – Smokers have lower bone density than non- smokers.3
  • Cutting back on caffeine – Excessive caffeine consumption, or more than three cups of coffee, tea or equivalent a day, can have adverse effects on bone health and increase the possibility of developing osteoporosis.3
  • Drinking in moderation – Similarly, excessive alcohol intake, or more than two standard drinks a day, is associated with osteoporosis.3 Alcohol can inhibit calcium absorption and bone formation.4
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight – Being either underweight or overweight may impact on bone density.1
  • Eliminating fall hazards – Most people do not realise they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs, as there are no telltale signs or symptoms of the condition.3 As such, it may be worthwhile reducing your chances of falling and associated fractures by clearing clutter from your home so you do not trip, for example removing shoes left in the hallway or loose electrical cords in the living room.
  • Having regular health checks – It is important for women around menopausal age to have bone health checks with their GP as part of their health screening. This may involve discussing medical history, checking risk factors for osteoporosis and bone density testing.