To answer that question, let’s go back to when you were a kid.
What We Know
If you followed bone-healthy recommendations when you were younger, you would have maximized your bone density with lots of calcium-rich food and weight-bearing activity. You would have reached your optimum peak bone density about age 30.
If your bones weren’t weakened by certain medical conditions or medications after that, they would have maintained their density until the years around menopause. That’s when estrogen levels start to wane, causing a loss in bone density. During the five years around menopause, you can lose up to 25% of your bone density and be at increased risk of broken bones. After that rapid bone loss, left unchecked, you will continue to lose about 0.5% of bone mass and 1.0% of muscle mass every year.
Now that you know about the natural occurrence of bone loss that comes with age, you should understand the need to take charge of your bone health. Act now to create a road map to protect yourself by minimizing bone loss and reducing the risk of fractures.
What You Can Do
Although much of your bone health depends on genetics, you can benefit from a bone health road map to maintain the best of what you have. Here are some basics to keep in mind.
- It’s time to think about whether you would benefit from a bone density test. Whether your insurance company will cover this test – also called a DXA or bone mineral density test – depends on your age and certain risk factors. Speak with your usual health care provider about getting this test because it’s the best way to get a baseline read on your bone density before you begin menopause. Know your T-score and keep it handy so when you take another test in five to 10 years, you’ll know how much bone mass you may have lost.
- According to the Institute of Medicine, women at age 50 need to increase their calcium intake from 1,000 mg per day to 1,200 mg or 3-4 servings of a calcium-rich food every day. The extra calcium will help your bones by giving them the nutritional support they need.
- Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption. Talk with your usual health care provider about whether you need to take a vitamin D supplement.
- Engage in physical activity that challenges your bones to stimulate bone building. This means applying a variety of weight and movement to the bones.
- Maintain good posture and proper body mechanics. Try to avoid activities that involve forward bending or forced twisting.
- As you get older, watch your step, keep a clear path at home and install hand railings to help avoid falls.
How You Can Be Sure
When it comes to bone health, knowing is half the battle. So get a bone density test, and check your risk factors on American Bone Health’s Fracture Risk Calculator. The other half of the battle requires taking action including proper nutrition and physical activity. We are here to help you with resources and information. American Bone Health’s website is a great place to start. Here is a downloadable list of fundamentals to keep in mind.
Learn your risk, then follow a road map to protect your bones and avoid fractures.