STRONG BONES AFTER 50: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

The title "Strong Bones After 50: The Ultimate Guide" carries a sense of urgency because maintaining healthy bones is crucial.

This issue is particularly pertinent for women, who experience a decline in bone density at a younger age than men. It's referred to as a 'silent disease' – osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis earns its label as a 'silent disease' because individuals often remain unaware of its presence until it's too late.

Imagine your bones as a honeycomb with tiny openings. In osteoporosis, these small openings enlarge, leading to weaker bones.

Osteoporosis and bone health

While there may be some signs, which I'll delve into later, the general rule is that we don't realize our bones are more fragile. 

This comprehensive guide will provide clear insights into why caring for your bones is crucial and offer practical tips on how to do so. If you're a woman aged 50 or above, consider this a 'must-read.'

UNDERSTANDING BONE HEALTH

 - STRONG BONES AFTER 50 -

Maintaining bone health becomes increasingly crucial in later life due to the natural decline in bone density associated with ageing.

Women, in particular, experience a more pronounced decrease in bone health compared to men. The hormonal changes during menopause directly impact bone density, with a reduction in oestrogen levels contributing to the development of osteoporosis.

This condition is characterized by weakened and porous bones, making women more susceptible to fractures.

strong bones after 50: the ultimate guide

Apart from insufficient oestrogen levels, factors such as inadequate calcium absorption in the intestines, increased calcium loss through urine, and a decline in bone-protective hormones can negatively impact bone health.

Engaging in everyday tasks like tidying your living space or tending to your garden makes you more prone to fractures because of osteoporosis.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), women who have undergone surgical removal of their ovaries face a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Although osteoporosis can affect men, it generally manifests later in life and is less prevalent than in women. Therefore it is especially women who, due to increased vulnerability to bone health issues, need to understand the importance of taking proactive measures.

According to recent statistics from the International Osteoporosis Foundation, worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years and 1 in 5 men will experience osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime.

Why is taking care of our bones so crucial? Initially, it's straightforward – you want to ensure your bones are healthy to avoid the inconvenience and pain of a broken hip or wrist.

However, delving deeper reveals that the impact of breaking a bone becomes more significant as you age. In older individuals, fractures take longer to heal and present a more challenging recovery process.

Healthy looking woman

Prioritizing bone health early on becomes key to maintaining a better quality of life in the long run.

You might find yourself depending on others for assistance. Perhaps you're the one who takes care of everyone, helps out with grandchildren, and ensures the smooth running of the household – handling daily chores and essential paperwork. 

Grandma doing an activity with grandchild

Being diagnosed with osteoporosis can have a substantial impact on your life.

The emotions of isolation and reduced activity levels can intensify, particularly if prolonged sitting becomes uncomfortable (e.g., making visits to restaurants more challenging).

The condition might also make everyday chores more difficult, potentially affecting your relationship as you feel less capable of contributing. Consequently, osteoporosis has the potential to bring about changes in personal relationships.

In the NHS RightCare scenario, we follow the fictional character Susan through an engaging narrative highlighting two distinct approaches to managing her injury. This narrative underscores the critical importance of timely identification of osteoporosis and how it can significantly shape the trajectory of your future.

Be proactive and identify any issues early on to make sure you get the right medications to protect fragile bones. It's all about enjoying a good quality of life, and that's why prevention becomes crucial – taking care of your bone health.

AM I AT RISK? UNDERSTANDING THE SIGNS

"Recognizing the Signs of Osteoporosis: What You Need to Know"

Osteoporosis makes your bones weak and prone to fractures, often without any warning signs until a break happens. Knowing the signs early on is essential for taking charge of your bone health.

In this guide, we explore the osteoporosis symptoms and main signals that could mean you're at risk or already losing bone density. By getting to know these signs, you can take action to protect your bones and stay healthy."

Warning signs that you might be dealing with osteoporosis

Loss of Height

If you've experienced a height reduction of more than 3 cm after reaching the age of 50, it may be linked to osteoporosis, as this causes weakened and less dense bones.

Fractures from Minor Events

Breaking a bone from a small accident or activity that wouldn't usually cause injury, like a minor fall or bump. This might be an indication of fragile bones.

Gum problems or Losing Teeth

Osteoporosis might impact your jawbone, causing your gums to recede or leading to tooth loss.

Trouble Standing or Walking

If your bones are weaker, it might become harder to stand or walk around easily.

Altered Posture

If you notice your back curving forward, like a stoop or hunch, it could be a sign of vertebral fractures and less dense bones.

Family History of Osteoporosis

Your genetic makeup plays a role, as having a family history of fractures, particularly hip fractures or osteoporosis diagnoses in your parents, increases your risk of having osteoporosis.

Family history: the genetic makeup

Fragile Fingernails

Changes in how your nails feel or break easily might be linked to bone health concerns.

Bone Pain

If your bones hurt, especially in the hip, wrist, or spine, it could be a sign of a potential problem.

Persistent Backache

Consistent discomfort in the back, particularly the lower region, may indicate vertebral fractures resulting from weakened bones.

Bone Unfriendly Medicine

Certain medications are known for their capacity to adversely affect bone health while undergoing treatment for osteoporosis.

To further explore medications that are detrimental to bone health, the following drugs, as highlighted by 'Top Doctors,' are acknowledged for their potential to adversely affect bones during treatment:

  • Corticosteroids: Treat asthma and arthritis
  • Phenobarbital and Phenytoin: Manage epilepsy
  • Aromatase Inhibitors (Anastrazole, Letrozole): Combat breast cancer
  • GnRH Agonists (Goserelin, Buserelin, Triptorelin): Treat endometriosis, prostate cancer, and used in IVF
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, Esomeprazole): Address gastro-esophageal reflux, heartburn, and peptic ulcers
  • Heparin: Prevent blood clot
  • Depo-Provera: Provide long-term contraception
  • Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (Fluoxetine, Escitalopram): Manage depression
  • Excessive Thyroxine: Used for underactive thyroid, but caution is needed to avoid overuse

If you believe you are at risk of osteoporosis, the first recommended step is to discuss your concerns with your General Practitioner (GP) or healthcare provider.

They can assess your risk factors, potentially order bone density testing, and provide guidance on preventive measures or osteoporosis treatment options based on your situation. Regular communication with your healthcare provider is crucial for managing and maintaining your bone health.

BUILDING STRONG BONES - SUPPLEMENTS

A GUIDE TO CALCIUM, VITAMIN D, MAGNESIUM, K2, AND COLLAGEN SUPPLEMENTS

Ensuring optimal bone health involves more than just a balanced diet. Supplements are vital in providing essential nutrients that contribute to bone strength. Explore the benefits of key supplements like Calcium, Vitamin D, Magnesium, K2, and Collagen.

Discover how essential vitamins for robust skeletal support contribute to density, joint health, and overall well-being, elevating your path to sustaining a resilient and sturdy framework.

Calcium and Vitamin D Duo

Making sure you get both calcium and vitamin D is crucial for strong and healthy bones. Calcium builds the foundation of your bones, and vitamin D helps your body absorb it effectively. Together, they work to keep your bones robust, preventing issues like osteoporosis and ensuring overall bone well-being.

strong bones after 50: the ultimate guide

Magnesium and Bone Density

Maintaining healthy bones is supported by magnesium as it aids in building new bone tissue and regulates calcium in the body. It also plays a role in activating Vitamin D, ensuring your bones remain strong and dense. Including sufficient magnesium in your diet is a positive way to promote bone health.

Optimizing the Use of Calcium with Vitamin K2

Combining Vitamin K2 with calcium is vital for strong bones and overall health. Vitamin K2 helps direct calcium to the right places, like bones, as well as preventing issues in arteries and soft tissues. 

It triggers the activation of numerous proteins essential for bone formation. Maintaining sufficient levels of Vitamin K2 is linked to a lower risk of osteoporosis.

Collagen for Bone Strength

Collagen is like a building block for strong bones, working together with minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. As we get older, our bodies make less collagen, which can affect our bones.

Taking collagen supplements might help keep our bones strong and dense, possibly lowering the chance of fractures linked to osteoporosis. Collagen also helps create other important proteins for our bone structure. So, keeping enough collagen can be good for keeping our bones healthy and sturdy.

Collagen is present naturally in a variety of foods and is not exclusive to supplements. Explore the following section for additional details on discovering collagen in food sources.

LIFESTYLE HACKS FOR OPTIMAL BONE HEALTH

Discover the key to optimal bone health through prevention. It's all about adopting a proactive approach to safeguard your bones. Unveil lifestyle hacks for healthier and stronger bones after 50.

Woman showing her hands

Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is essential for maintaining robust and healthy bones. Proper hydration supports optimal bone mineral density, bone remodelling, and the absorption of calcium.

Stress management and mental health are linked to osteoporosis. There's evidence showing a two-way connection between mental health issues like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and osteoporosis.

This means that depressive and anxiety disorders are linked to osteoporosis, and at the same time, osteoporosis is connected to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Thus, engaging in activities like Tai Chi could be beneficial.

Try to sleep at least 7 hours each night, as a small study by Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP indicates that the lack of sleep influences bone density.

Regular exercise is essential:

  • weight-bearing exercise is good for improving bone density and to help in the prevention of osteoporosis. Examples include brisk walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, using elliptical training machines*, stair climbing, and gardening, hiking.

These exercises directly benefit the bones in the legs, hips, and lower spine, slowing down bone loss.

 Additionally, they enhance blood flow and contribute to cardiovascular health. The NHS advises adults aged 19 to 64, to do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

  • Engage in muscle-strengthening workouts at least twice a week, focusing on all major muscle groups, such as the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, arms, and shoulders.

When your muscles exert force on your bones, it prompts your bones to actively renew and enhance their strength. As your muscles gain strength, they pull harder, contributing to the strengthening of your bones. For muscle-strengthening exercises, use weights or resistance bands.

While regular exercise is crucial, it's important to seek medical advice if you suspect you may have a medical condition.

Preventing Falls: Given the increased risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis, it's important to take precautions. This involves keeping your home free of clutter.

Breaking bad habits:

  • Limit Salt and Caffeine: High salt intake can lead to calcium loss, and excessive caffeine consumption may interfere with calcium absorption. Moderation is key.
  • Stop smoking to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Smoking is associated with diminished calcium absorption, a crucial mineral for strong bones. Additionally, smoking may compromise bone quality by disrupting normal turnover and remodelling processes, resulting in decreased bone mass.
  • Restrict alcohol consumption to safeguard your bone health, as it can disrupt calcium absorption in your body. Chronic alcohol use may also lead to nutrient deficiencies, including vital vitamin D, crucial for maintaining strong and healthy bones.

Enjoy the sun: Sun exposure prompts the production of vitamin D, aiding your body in absorbing calcium.

Maintaining a healthy weight: Keeping a healthy weight is important. If you're too thin or too heavy, the chances of osteoporosis and fractures go up.

So, to take care of your bones, try to keep your body weight within a healthy and right range for you. Your Senior Journey - weight loss for women over 50 provides comprehensive information on adopting a nutritious diet.

Stressing the importance of a balanced diet, it's vital to keep a healthy weight. Here are some things to include in your balanced diet for strong bones. Check out these food sources that contain the best vitamins and minerals to keep your bones healthy.

Calcium rich food

Calcium-Rich Foods

Examples of foods rich in calcium include leafy green vegetables, dried fruits, tofu, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Magnesium Rich foods

Magnesium-Rich Foods

Foods abundant in magnesium include dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, legumes, tofu, seeds, whole grains, and fatty fish.

Vitamin D rich foods

Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, fortified foods, such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals, dietary supplements.

Vitamin K rich food

Vitamin K-Rich Foods

Green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and lettuce.

Collagen Rich Food

Collagen-Rich Foods

Foods that are rich in collagen include bone broth, fish with the skin on, chicken (especially with the skin on), liver, kidneys, broccoli, and citrus fruits.


Additionally, legumes are excellent sources of collagen, so consider integrating more of them into your diet through stews, soups, veggie bolognese, or salads.


Examples of legumes encompass chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, white beans, fava beans, peas, red bell peppers, and leafy greens.

Some of the best fruits and vegetables for osteoporosis prevention

Kale and Collard greens - Oranges - Broccoli - Spinach and Mustard greens - Figs - Mushrooms


Q&A SESSION

YOUR BONE HEALTH CONCERNS ANSWERED

Faq

What is the difference between osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, osteopenia, brittle bones and rheumatoid arthritis?

Here's a brief explanation of the differences:

Osteoporosis: Characterized by weakened and porous bones, making them more susceptible to fractures. It involves a decrease in bone density.

Osteoarthritis: Involves the wear and tear of joints over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced flexibility. It primarily affects the cartilage in the joints.

Osteopenia: Refers to lower than normal bone density but not to the extent of osteoporosis. It is considered a precursor to osteoporosis.

Brittle Bones: A general term suggesting bones that are more fragile and prone to breakage. It can be associated with conditions like osteoporosis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, swelling, and potential joint damage. It is not specific to bones but affects the joints.

Is it possible to reverse osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is when your bones get weak and break easily. It's not something we can reverse, but making some lifestyle changes and getting medical help can help manage it and potentially make your bones stronger. Here are some things you can do:

  • Make sure to get enough Calcium and Vitamin D, as they are crucial for maintaining healthy bones.
  • Engaging in weight-bearing exercises to stimulate the formation of bones and enhance bone density.

As per the Osteoporosis Foundation, it becomes challenging to build bone mineral after adulthood, but participating in weight-bearing exercises has shown the potential for modestly increasing bone mineral density (BMD) by approximately 1-2%.

  • Include strength training workouts to develop and strengthen muscles, providing added support and protection for your bones.
  • Medical treatments: to help slow down further bone loss or promote bone density
  • Antiresorptive Medications: These medications slow down the breakdown of bone density. Women may receive drug therapy that includes oestrogen treatments. The oestrogen hormone in females aids in building new bone and regulating bone density.
  • Anabolic Medications: These medications help generate more bone than the amount being lost, aiding in the rebuilding of bone density.
    The main aim is typically to handle the issue, prevent more bone loss, and lower the risk of fractures. It's crucial to talk to a healthcare professional to figure out the best plan based on your situation.

After my recent fall, there wasn't an option provided for a comprehensive bone density test. Should I inquire about it?

Certainly, if you're 50 years or older and have suffered a recent bone fracture, it is advisable to request a bone density test.


In the UK, this test is commonly called a Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, measuring bone mineral density to assess the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. It might also be referred to as a bone densitometry test or a DXA scan.

I am overweight. Am I more at risk of having osteoporosis?

Being overweight can have both positive and negative effects on bone health, and it is essential to differentiate between osteoporosis and another bone-related condition called osteoarthritis.

Osteoporosis:

  • This happens when your bones become weak, making you more prone to fractures.
  • Interestingly, being a bit heavier can actually protect against osteoporosis because the extra weight puts more pressure on your bones, making them stronger.
  • But it's not just about weight – what you eat, how active you are, and hormonal changes also matter for bone health. 
  • Osteoarthritis:

    • This is a joint problem that causes pain and stiffness, often in the knees and hips.
    • If you're carrying extra weight, it can make osteoarthritis worse. The joints, especially the weight-bearing ones, feel more strain, leading to more wear and tear over time. 

    Bottom Line: If you're worried about your bones, it's a good idea to talk to a healthcare pro. They can give you advice based on your unique situation. 

    Keeping a healthy weight through balanced eating and exercise is good for your bones.
    Be cautious as rapidly losing weight may result in elevated bone loss by diminishing crucial micronutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.

    If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it's important to approach weight loss gradually and with professional guidance, especially for older adults.

I am underweight. Am I at more risk of having osteoporosis?

A low BMI is a significant risk factor for reduced bone mass and heightened bone loss.


A study by ASBMR - the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research - discovered that being underweight is associated with an elevated risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

WHERE TO FIND HELP?

YOUR BONE HEALTH NETWORK

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of osteoporosis or recognize several of the described signs, it's advisable to consult your GP in the first instance.

Various resources providing information on bone health include:

  • Support groups: Check platforms like Meetup.com for local or online meetups related to osteoporosis. Some communities organize informal gatherings or informational sessions.

The Royal Osteoporosis Society provides details about a bone density scan, which is employed to assess your bone density or the amount of bone tissue you possess.

This test is commonly referred to as a DXA (or DEXA) scan. 

ROS gives also information about FLS.

Additionally, FLS, which typically stands for 'Fracture Liaison Service,' plays a crucial role in addressing fractures and ensuring proper care."


Fracture Liaison Services (FLS), recognized as the best practice for fracture care, play a crucial role in identifying, evaluating, and managing osteoporosis in individuals aged 50 and above who have experienced a fracture.

CONCLUSION

STRONG BONES AFTER 50

To sum it up, taking care of your bones is vital to prevent and deal with osteoporosis.


We've covered who is more at risk, ways to reduce the risk, the importance of good nutrition and exercise, and supplements that can help.


If you need guidance or support, consult healthcare professionals for advice. By looking after your bones, you're giving yourself the best chance for a healthy and active life.


Birgit is a compassionate guide specializing in supporting senior women through life's transitions. Alongside her dedication to this cause, she finds joy in teaching piano, nurturing her garden, cherishing family moments, and enjoying walks. These activities fuel her creativity and bring depth and richness to her life.


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