The number of older persons — defined as aged 60 and over — are growing in virtually every country. There were an estimated 605 million older persons in 2002 and the number of older persons worldwide is expected to reach more than 1.2 billion by 2025.
The vast numbers of the aging population is creating a dramatic change in how healthcare professionals view, manage and deliver services. Prevention and lifestyle modification is proving to be the most effective mechanism to managing one of the leading health conditions in aging females — menopause.
Women comprise the majority of the older population in virtually every country, largely because women live longer than men. However, women also tend to manage and take better care of their health.
One in three at risk of fractures
Menopause creates special nutritional needs and lifestyle modification techniques to ensure hormonal balance, strong bones, effective weight management and chronic disease prevention. Women are at greater risk of osteoporosis due to accelerated bone loss after menopause.
Menopause-induced osteoporosis and associated fractures are a major cause of illness, disability and death. Women suffer 80% of all hip fractures and their lifetime risk of experiencing an osteoporotic fracture is between 30 to 40%.
Lifestyle factors, especially diet and exercise, have been found to be effective preventative and corrective techniques in menopause-related osteoporosis. Increasing bone mass can be achieved by providing the proper nutrients and stressing the bones in a healthy way.
The strength of bones is directly related to the amount of stress you place on them. The amount of physical activity one places on their body diminishes as we get older. This reduces the load on the bones and will cause the bones to thin and weaken.
The foods and nutrients that we eat play the most significant role in the development and maintenance of strong bones. A leading cause of bone thinning is inflammation in the body. Inflammation is greatly influenced by the nutrients that we consume on a daily basis.
Calcium in more than milk
Providing one’s body with enough calcium is only part of the solution. Absorption of calcium is based on several factors such as amount of vitamin D, inflammation and overall absorbability of the calcium. Calcium-rich foods are readily absorbable, but nutritional supplements may not be.
The Harvard Medical School recommends that post-menopausal women get at least 1,500mg of calcium each day. Foods that are high in calcium include dark green, leafy vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and some dairy products.
Calcium needs vitamin D
Vitamin D acts more like a hormone and is involved in dozens of bodily functions, including healthy bones. One’s body produces Vitamin D with sufficient exposure to sunlight. It is common to get less physical activity and go outside less as we age.
These two factors will diminish one’s vitamin D production and calcium absorption. Vitamin D is also available in one’s diet. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include fish, eggs and dairy products.
Primary prevention and treatment recommendations for menopause-induced osteoporosis is improving one’s diet and engaging in a healthy exercise regimen. Taking proactive steps early in life will greatly reduce the risk of a broken hip or associated osteoporotic fracture later in life.
Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications worldwide