There is no doubt that osteoporosis is a serious condition, which can even lead to death, so knowing how to prevent it is high on most women’s agenda. Worldwide, an osteoporotic fracture is estimated to occur every 3 seconds, and a vertebral fracture every 22 seconds with as many as 200 million women worldwide being affected. That is approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one-fifth of women aged 70, two-fifths of women aged 80 and two-thirds of women aged 90.
Statistics are not much fun, and certainly the estimate that 1 in 3 women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures is no joke. Building strong healthy bones is a priority and a simple regime of a good diet, weight bearing exercise and adequate natural bio-identical progesterone intake will all help minimize the risk. One other step is to make sure we understand what osteoporosis is and isn’t.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Our bones continue to change throughout our lives so that old, worn out bone is broken down by cells called osteoclasts and replaced by bone building cells called osteoblasts. As an adult your skeleton will completely renew itself in seven to ten years, but it relies on you to give it all the correct nutrients and elements for optimal renewal. After the age of 35, bone loss increases very gradually as part of the natural ageing process and becomes more rapid in women for several years following the menopause. This leads to an increased risk of broken bones, especially in later life, as our bones become brittle and in extreme cases almost lace-like in their appearance due to old bone being taken away and not enough new bone being produced.
It is what Dr John Lee described when he advocated that bio-identical natural progesterone was essential to balance oestrogen in order to prevent the accelerated bone loss that can occur at menopause. This is particularly true for women on HRT as the higher oestrogen levels, if not balanced, will slow down the loss of bone, but do not stimulate the formation of new bone. He quoted Jerilynn Prior, MD, who presented evidence that progesterone has receptors in osteoblasts and was able to positively affect new bone formation.
That is what osteoporosis is – but what are the common myths and misconceptions that surround it?
Myth Number 1
Society as a whole believes that it is just women at menopause who are vulnerable, but this is simply not true. Younger women, particularly those who have a lifestyle that has involved crash dieting over a long period, anorexia and even extreme exercise can all have an impact on our bones.
Nor are men immune: 1 in 5 men will also experience osteoporotic fractures particularly over the age of 50. Because it is rarer for doctors to see this it may not be diagnosed until several fractures have taken place.
Myth Number 2
That all women are vunerable to osteoporosis is another common myth, but it depends to a great extent on factors that we can’t control, such as family history, and those we can like lifestyle factors.
Myth Number 3
Don’t ask your doctor for an x ray if you believe you have osteoporosis as it can not be diagnosed simply by ‘looking’ at a woman or by having an x-ray. There is simply no way to tell whether anyone has osteoporosis unless they have had a bone scan, or a recent experience of breaking a bone with no real reason for it. Also drugs for osteoporosis need careful consideration as they do have severe side effects.
Myth Number 4
This is the common belief that osteoporosis is not that dangerous. In some cases it can be fatal if it leads to weakened bones that precipitate a disabling fall. Women are well are aware of the risks of breast cancer, but don’t realise that the lifetime risk of hip fracture is 1 in 6, compared with a 1 in 9 risk of a diagnosis of breast cancer. That is a serious figure and needs given due weight.
If you are in any of the vulnerable risk groups then pay attention to the dietary and lifestyle factors that will help you keep strong bones and ensure your intake of natural progesterone is sufficient to enable your bones to keep rebuilding themselves.