ASK YOUR PHARMACIST
This is the final in my series on women’s health; this week I discuss osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones lose density causing them to become weak and more likely to fracture. About 50% of women will fracture a bone due to osteoporosis. Whilst the condition can affect any age group, it is most common in post-menopausal women.
Causes of osteoporosis
Up to our mid-20s our skeleton is strengthened, but from our 40s onwards our bones gradually lose their density as a natural part of ageing. The breakdown of bone is quicker in women who have been through the menopause. This is because of a lack of the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen reduces the amount of bone broken down and so helps to protect against osteoporosis. Anything that reduces the number of years that a woman produces oestrogen may increase the risk of osteoporosis. These include:
- an early menopause (before the age of 45)
- a hysterectomy before the age of 45 (especially if both ovaries are removed)
- excessive exercising - this can reduce your hormone levels resulting in periods stopping for a prolonged time
Other factors include: -
- age - the risk increases as you get older
- family history of osteoporosis, particularly a history of hip fracture in a parent
- a very low body mass index
- excessive alcohol consumption or smoking
- low levels of vitamin D or dietary calcium
Osteoporosis can also target women yet to reach menopause. In these cases, a reduction in oestogen production caused through a medical condition or by taking some medication may cause early onset.
There are many “low impact” activities such as swimming, walking, golf which can be of real benefit in improving balance, coordination and develop muscle strength. All these can reduce the risk of falling and fracturing a bone.
Eating a diet rich in calcium is important for maintaining healthy bones. Dairy products (including low and non-fat) and green leafed vegetables are good sources of calcium. The body also needs vitamin D to absorb calcium properly. Vitamin D is found in certain foods, including cod liver oil, oily fish such as sardines and herrings, margarine and egg yolks. It's also made by your skin when you're in the sunlight. The National Osteoporosis Society recommends about 20 minutes of sun exposure to the face and arms, every day during the summer, to provide you with enough vitamin D for the year. There are many successful prescription-only options for osteoporosis which I discussed in the Westmeath Examiner in the past. Check out www.whelehans.ie for more information.
Happy Christmas and New Year to all from Whelehans Pharmacy
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore). Find us on Facebook.