Our bones are made up of collagen, calcium salts and other minerals. Each bone is made up of a thick outer shell and a strong inner mesh of bone, which looks a little like a honeycomb.
Most people tend to think of their bones as rigid structures, but your bones are alive and constantly changing and regenerating throughout your life. Old worn bone is broken down by cells called ‘osteoclasts’ and replaced by bone building cells called ‘osteoblasts’. In adults it takes approximately seven to ten years for the skeleton to completely renew itself.
Without adequate levels of oestrogen and progesterone, bones aren’t able to absorb the proper amounts of calcium to replenish bone mass as cells die off. The body also has trouble in controlling the amount of bone cells that are destroyed, without oestrogen to regulate the function. As oestrogen levels diminish during menopause, the osteoclasts (responsible for the breakdown of bones) seem to live longer than the osteoblasts. This leads to bones being broken down at a rate much greater than they can be rebuilt, causing bones to grown weak and brittle.
There are a few measurers that can be taken to prevent the onset of osteoporosis:
Exercise – Weight bearing exercises use bone and muscle to work against gravity. Working against resistance will increase bone density. Include exercises such as stair climbing, brisk walking, jogging and yoga. If you find exercising too painful, due to osteoporosis or arthritis, then try doing your workout in the water to relieve some of the pressure.
Calcium – Eating foods with high calcium content will be beneficial, but in order for the calcium to be absorbed by the body, magnesium and vitamin D must be present. Broccoli is one of the menopause super foods. Surprisingly, milk isn’t, due to its lack of magnesium and vitamin D. Watch out for spinach too, although it is high in calcium the body cannot absorb it due to the oxalic acid content.
If you are concerned about developing osteoporosis talk to your doctor about arranging a bone density scan.