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Menopause and Bone Health

We often hear of any symptoms related to menopause such as hot flushes and troubles with sleeping, but bone health can be overlooked because we can’t physically see or feel them.

Oestrogen is produced in the ovaries, when a woman is going through perimenopause, slowly the levels of oestrogen decreases, causing the levels of the hormones to fluctuate. At the later stages, around 1 -2 years before reaching menopause the production of oestrogen will start to drop more rapidly. When a woman is in menopause the levels will remain low. Oestrogen acts like a mediator for the stability of bone health. Our bones go through a regular cycle of being broken down and reabsorbed by cells called osteoclasts, for the bone to then to be replenished and rebuilt by the osteoblast cells. The presence of oestrogen slows down the activity of the osteoclastsbreaking down the bone tissue. A drop in oestrogen will change the balance, allowing for the break down to occur quicker than the rebuilding process. This cause more cavities in the bones than the osteoblasts can keep up with. This leaves the bones more porous, fragile, and prone to fractures.

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, causes them to be fragile and more likely to break. It can develop slowly over several years and may be diagnosed only after a sudden impact causes a break or a fracture. (Most common breaks for people with osteoporosis are wrist, hip and spinal bones as these bones aren’t naturally as thick or dense, therefore can weaken more quickly)

We know that genes affect your height and the strength of your skeleton, but life factors such as diet can influence how healthy bones are, to keep their strength and reduce age related bone loss. General healthy eating and a balanced diet is recommended to prevent many serious health conditions including osteoporosis. This includes eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, different colours and variety’s of fruit and vegetables will also contain a range vitamins and minerals to help keep the whole body healthy. Furthermore, by aiming for 2 portions of protein (which can be meat, fish, dairy, tofu or beans and pulses) a day will help keep the muscles around the bones strong.

By consuming foods that are high in calcium to maintain bone health and to keep them strong and dense. Calcium can be found in milk and dairy products, canned fish with the bones such as salmon and sardines, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, chard and broccoli) dried fruit and tofu. An ideal calcium intake for adults is 700-1000mg per day, which may not really mean anything so to put it into practice...

-A matchbox size piece of cheddar has over 200mg of calcium -½ a tin of sardines with bone can have between 240-400mg

-100ml of fortified plant-based milk can have 120-190mg of calcium

-1 medium orange has 29mg

By having 3-4 good sources of calcium would help to meet the requirement

The BDA Calcium food fact sheet has more examples –

Vitamin D helps calcium get from our food and into our body where it helps strengthen bones. Most of our vitamin D is made in our bodies from exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods. Sources include:

Oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel

Red meat


Egg yolks

Fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals

Advice in the UK for adults and children over 4 years old during the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D. (This may mean taking a supplement, always be open and honest with GP or health care professionals on any supplements your taking.) Remember everything in balance, taking to high amounts can have negative impacts.

Other lifestyle factors

o Weight baring exercises – anything that make your muscles work against gravity which includes walking, hiking, stair-climbing, dancing, aerobics or jogging 30 minutes (3 or 4 times a week) to strengthen the bones surrounding the muscles

o Smoking can increase bone loss and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

o Being underweight can increase your risk of osteoporosis, which may be because body fat helps to store oestrogen


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