One of our Menopause Goddess readers (thanks, Dale) shared a useful article on bone health she found posted on womentowomen.com authored by Dr. Susan E. Brown. (link at bottom.) Of course, Women to Women pitches their own supplements and products, but their information is clear, detailed, and right on.
Advertising on blogsites and info disseminating websites tends to make me a little nervous. (That is no reflection on women to women or any other website, just a personal character trait. Some might call it a flaw.) But hey, good information is good information regardless of the source. And the more we educate ourselves, the more we are likely to make good choices for our health for the second half of our lives.
The Goddess’s Skinny on Bone Health
Menopausal women lose bone density – some more than others. It’s a good idea to get a bone scan to find out how your bones are doing. Even before you get a bone scan, there are some proactive things you can do to maintain strong, healthy bones.
Walking, Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi. All of these can help and should be done at least three times a week. Personally, I’ll put walking as the overall best exercise I know and it doesn’t require instructors or training, just a good pair of shoes.
Before you groan as I always did, we aren’t talking about strain and muscle bound body building here. Using light weights can build your bones as well or better than all that heavy lifting. Use 2 pound free weights and do a number of repetitions. If you want more of a workout, go slower. That’s right, the slower you go, it seems the better the weight training. And when you first start, think less is more. You likely will find the light weights easy and be tempted to do more. But the burn has a time lag and will be felt the next day or two rather than right away.
Calcium alone is not sufficient for bone health. Vitamin D3 is also important. Since we all started using ginormous number SPF sunscreen, guess what has happened to most Americans as an unintended consequence? We are deficient in Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for making and keeping our bones. Yep, sunshine converts cholesterol in skin to Vitamin D. (Proves once and for all, moderation in all things is a good way to live.) Light skinned people may create enough Vitamin D with 30 minutes of sun exposure a day. Those with more melanin need longer. Or we need supplementation. How much supplementation? Depends. Have your Vitamin D level tested and work with your trusted health care practitioner/partner to determine what is best for you.
More fruits and vegetables, less meat in diet has been shown to aid bone health. Even more important might be weight loss. For some reason, weight loss is associated with a decrease in bone density. Yet some (read most) of us feel a need to diet thanks to the weight gain that accompanies the Big M. A good idea is to lose weight slowly and exercise as an integral part of any weight loss program you undertake.
There is so much contradictory information about estrogen building bones, estrogen being unimportant in bone health, progesterone being the real bone health hormone, progesterone being unimportant and unnecessary. If they are indeed beneficial, there may be very real risks to HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Studies are being done, but the jury is still out.
It seems to make intuitive sense that bioidentical hormones might be less risky and more usable by the body. (Actually, it seems like a freaking no-brainer to me, which is why I use a very low dose Estradiol patch and use natural progesterone cream.) That’s natural progesterone cream, not wild yam cream. Wild yam cream is not in a usable form for our bodies. Check out emerita.com for Pro-Gest cream or prodnature.com for Natural Woman cream.
This is where you can work with your trusted healthcare advisor to find the best solution for yourself. If you are considering hormone replacement, have your hormones tested first to determine your baseline. Saliva testing worked much better for me than blood testing – perhaps both will give a fuller picture.
Last, and certainly NOT least, stress level has been shown to adversely affect bone health. While it may seem that the Big M is nothing but stress sometimes (gee, could that be the main mechanism for osteoporosis?), take care of yourself. Curl up with a good book, take a bubble bath, sit quietly under a tree. Don’t wait until everything is done (because hello, it never is done. Ever.) Don’t put it off and don’t put anything ahead of your "me" time. One of our Venuses calls it "exercising my me muscle". And if anyone asks you what you are doing? Tell them you are boning up on health and wellness. Don’t wait until you get your bone scan to start exercise and relaxation. Do it now. Goddesses’ orders.