Welcome to Healthy Tips! Every other month we will post useful health care tips for women here on our website. These will cover topics of interest to women of all ages. We hope you find the information helpful.
Build Better Bones Now–and Beat Osteoporosis
May is National Osteoporosis Month, and a good time to take steps toward improving your bone health. Healthy bones give us good posture, allow us to stay active, and contribute to our overall physical health. However, as we age, our bones can weaken. This condition is called osteoporosis. But age is not the only factor contributing to osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is on the rise in both men and women, with incidents of bone breaks appearing at much younger ages. Among the factors behind this:
- Lack of exercise. Too many people are leading sedentary lives and not engaging in the amount of exercise needed to develop strong bones and muscles.
- Poor diet–too much consumption of overprocessed foods and not enough bone-building foods.
- Heavy consumption of sugary drinks and alcohol, which lead to weight gain and do not provide nutritional benefits.
- Smoking–even after years of educational messaging about the dangers of smoking, this continues to be a serious addiction, and one that puts bone health at risk, among other dangers.
The Foundation also states that:
- Of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, about eight million or 80% are women.
- Approximately one in two women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
- A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
You can reduce your risk for developing osteoporosis, but first let’s take a look at the causes.
Why do our bones change as we get older?
We build bones through childhood and into young adulthood. During our twenties, our bones are at their strongest. However, after age 30, a woman’s body starts making less bone. And, after menopause, hormonal changes cause our bodies to make less estrogen, which in turn, makes us start to lose bone. In fact, a woman can lose up to one-third of her spinal bone mass during the first six years of menopause. These weakened bones lead to a risk of fractures, reduce the ability to be active, and can give women a stooped appearance.
Can we prevent osteoporosis?
Yes, by remembering that our bones are alive and always changing. They are continually making and losing bone. New bone is formed from calcium and other minerals. This allows bones to repair themselves after injury. When the bone-making system is healthy, the same amount of bone is rebuilt as is lost. This way, bones stay strong and able to support the body.
With osteoporosis, the bone-making system is out of balance and the amount of bone lost is greater than the amount of bone rebuilt. However, by taking a few simple steps–changing our diet, exercising, and in some cases, using supplements–we can tip the bone-making system back into balance and keep osteoporosis at bay.
Diet: A Key Tool
Make sure you get enough calcium. Women should start increasing their calcium intake in their thirties to help ward off the affects of menopause in later years. (Children and teens should also be encouraged to get enough calcium. Strong bones in your youth will aid you when you get older.)
Age 14 to 18; 1,300 mg per day
Age 19 to 30: 1,000 mg per day
Age 31 to 50: 1,000 mg pr day
Age 51 and up: 1,200 mg per day
Good Sources of Calcium
Canned salmon with bones
Canned sardine with bones
Tomato soup with soy milk
Tofu made with calcium sulfate
Puddings made with milk
Calcium-fortified soy milk
Calcium-fortified fruit juices
Calcium-fortified breakfast bars
The Vitamin D Connection
Without adequate amounts of Vitamin D, our body’s capacity to retain calcium is compromised. The good news is that getting Vitamin D is very simple–when our skin is exposed to sunlight, our bodies make Vitamin D. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that exposing your arms, hands and face to sunlight for as little as 15 minutes per day, two to three times per week, is enough to provide the right amount of Vitamin D. However, some folks cannot tolerate sunlight, and others live in climates where outdoor exposure in the winter months might be difficult. Plus, we have to balance sunlight exposure with preventing skin cancer risks. For those reasons, ask your doctor or health care provider about taking a Vitamin D supplement. The National Osteoporosis Foundation is recommending that adults take a Vitamin D supplement of from 400 to 800 IU per day. Your doctor can advise as to what is right for you. (It can be difficult to get adequate Vitamin D in your diet. Although dairy products in general are good sources of calcium, only milk is Vitamin D fortified. Two 8-ounce glasses of skim milk daily will provide you with an adequate daily amount of Vitamin D, and about half of your daily calcium requirements.)
Add in Exercise
Being active is important because your bones need exercise. Activity places force on your bones and they respond by growing stronger. When used as part of an overall prevention plan, exercise is even more effective.
Weight-bearing exercise works especially well. Some examples are walking, jogging, tennis, aerobics, dance, and in winter, cross-country skiing and skating. Chores such as gardening and yard work, and vacuuming also provide weight-bearing exercise.
Resistance exercises are also good. These might include archery, using free weights, rubber stretch bands, or weight machines. These activities apply force to bones by way of the muscles. Both muscles and bones are strengthened when doing these exercises.
Non-weight bearing activities include swimming and bicycling. These don’t benefit your bones, but do help you reduce your weight, which is also important.
A good overall fitness plan should include weight-bearing activity, resistance activity, and a flexibility program, such as yoga, pilates, or dance.
Bone Density Tests
If you are concerned about the health of your bones, you might ask your doctor to schedule a bone density test. These tests are quick, easy, and painless–much like an X-ray. In general, women of menopause age and older should definitely have a bone density test.
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health call (603) 778-0557.
You Are Having a Baby
Congratulations! You are having a baby! While the arrival of a baby is a joyous occasion, it can also be a tiring one for a new mom. Following are some simple tips on how to prepare.
No matter how easily the delivery goes, most new moms find those first few weeks at home very tiring. Hormonal changes, the physical challenge of delivery, and the demands of a newborn on sleep time can all take their toll. Having a “support system” in place can make this hectic time go more smoothly, and allow you time to recuperate faster.
- Mid-pregnancy, start lining up friends and family members who might be able to help with running errands, preparing a few meals, or watching the newborn so you can rest. Knowing that you have support in place can ease some of the stress of those first few weeks at home.
- As your due date nears, cook and freeze meals that can easily be popped in the oven or microwave for quick dinners. Get your spouse or partner to help!
- Make caring for the baby a partnership. Granted, your spouse cannot nurse (if you are breastfeeding) but diaper changes, bed, bath time and nap time help, or help with housework can all be shared.
- Get as much rest as you can before the baby comes. You cannot stockpile sleep, but if you are well rested before the baby arrives, you will be better able to handle the days ahead.
- Get in as good shape as you can before the baby arrives. Unless your pregnancy has complications, even women in the later stages of pregnancy can participate in some activities, such as walking. Exercise will help you sleep better, help ensure an easier delivery, and keep your metabolism in good shape. Exercise also releases endorphins, the “good mood” hormones.
- Get your nursery well stocked with diapers and other baby supplies to avoid last minute trips to the store.
For more information about preparing for your newborn, and our practice, contact Partners for Women’s Health at (603) 778-0557.