When do most women begin to think about their bone health? For far too many, bone health doesn’t cross the radar until there’s a problem —a diagnosis of osteoporosis or worse, a bone fracture. When we are young, we take our strong bones for granted. But lifestyle, family history, and health experiences shape and influence your bones throughout your lifetime. If you are still in perimenopause, you can easily make a difference in your bone health future now, before you enter menopause.
That’s why it’s so important to share stories of women taking action — motivated by family history, hormonal changes and symptoms, or a “bad” bone density test — before the situation gets much more severe.
Here is one of those powerful stories from Joan, a colleague at www.BetterBones.com and www.WomensHealthNetwork.com. Joan’s fears about her bone health may sound very familiar to you, and if so, I encourage you to take steps to stabilize and even improve your bone health, no matter how old you are.
My mother’s experience with osteoporosis
My mom had some health challenges, after which she broke her arm and hip in a fall. She ended up in assisted living — but she could still get around. However, the most sobering moment arrived when my mother fell again and suffered a massive fracture of her right femur, an injury from which she never recovered. (I now think this life-changing fracture was influenced, if not directly caused by, the bone drugs my mother had been taking for years.)
My mom lived for another 6 years in a nursing home, incapacitated physically and totally dependent on others. She had been a vital, active senior citizen, engaged in every aspect of life. During the last chapter of her life, we tried to make the best of the time we had together but every day was painful — and sad — for her.
My growing concern about my bone health
I am perimenopausal, still, at age 55, in a minority of women who continue to menstruate well past the average age of menopause. Because of Dr. Brown, I knew that bone loss accelerates during the two years before menopause and through the year following. This realization, coupled with my mother’s osteoporosis, raised the stakes for me and I took my first serious look at Dr. Brown’s Better Bone approach. I began by taking the Better Bones Builder supplement every day and eventually, added other supplements for my bone health, including additional fish oil and extra vitamin D.
Soon also I began to recognize that stress might be an issue for me. I experienced years of stress, with lots of worry and time demands from aging parents, two rapidly-maturing sons, a husband, a dog, and of course, a full-time job. While I had practiced what I call “sleepy-time yoga” for several years to help me with stress, I stepped up my fitness /stress reduction game about 3 years ago and enrolled in hot yoga classes two to three times a week.
Flash forward to my recent annual physical with a conventional physician. I wondered when the doctor would ask about my menstruation status and my bone health, but in the end, I had to bring up both topics. After hearing about my mom, she ordered my first DEXA. Viewing the results, my doctor told me I had been diagnosed with osteopenia of the left hip neck and ordered several blood tests to search for secondary causes. But all those tests came back “normal” and the doctor advised me to basically do nothing. To her credit, she didn’t prescribe a bone drug, but when I asked about an alkaline diet, she said she didn’t know much about it and clearly wasn’t curious to learn more.
Why doing nothing isn’t an option for me
Enter Dr. Brown, who reviewed my case and helped me understand my true risk for osteoporosis and fracture. We discussed my most significant risk factors, in addition to family history, gender and age:
- Several childhood fractures.
- Poor nutrition and eating habits during my youth.
- The possibility that I never achieved optimal bone mass.
- Being thin most of my life, gaining and losing weight a few times, sometimes due to anxiety.
- Appetite issues — even though my stress management is improved, I’m rarely hungry when under stress, even if it’s a happy event, like my son’s recent wedding.
- Unpredictable digestion — often either super-fast or way too sluggish.
In addition, a week of pH readings showed that my body is having trouble alkalizing. Dr. Brown thinks my body has extra challenges clearing my daily acid load. And she is concerned about my diet choices — often I skimp on protein, eat too much dairy and bread, and don’t get enough alkalizing and nutritious vegetables.
But Dr. Brown also praised me for supplementing my diet daily to get the 20 key nutrients for bone health, including vitamin D. She likes that I perform regular weight-bearing exercise and consciously “listen” to my body when it tells me I am stressed or anxious. And even though I like to enjoy a cocktail or beer sometimes, she told me it’s okay for the most part.
Perhaps the most reassuring part of my consultation was hearing Dr. Brown say, “Your DEXA t-scores are right in the normal range. Your bone health is holding up well overall. And you should know that having some menopausal bone loss is not the end of the world.” She suggested I add extra MK-7 to help my body minimize menopause transition bone loss, and swap out lunchtime sandwiches for steamed vegetables and vegetable-based proteins. I should also try to meditate more.
My bones and I are ready for the future
With Dr. Brown’s comprehensive evaluation of my bone health and overall wellness, I am finally able to understand the present status of my bone health and how I got here. I am relieved to have a clearer picture of the future of my bone health and how I can preserve and improve it. And I think that would make my mother very, very happy.
For women in perimenopause, the window of opportunity is still open for building bone and that’s the reason we’re sharing Joan’s story. If you’re still in perimenopause, follow Joan’s lead and assess your own bone health status now.