The ‘M’ Word – Menopause
What do night sweats, vaginal dryness and bone health have in common?
By Physio Marg
Menopause occurs when you have not had a period for 12 months. It is a natural part of aging. The average age of onset is 51 years old, however may be brought on earlier for other reasons such as having previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, auto immune diseases, or being a smoker.
Most women have symptoms for 5-10 years. These symptoms may include hot flashes, poor sleep, mood swings and anxiety.
Other symptoms of decreasing oestrogen include ageing skin (more wrinkle, thinner consistency), a change in our ‘figure’ with increasing fat deposits and a generalised decrease in muscle mass. There are other more intimate changes such as vaginal dryness and irritation, or a seemingly increased sensitivity to urinary tract infections.
But what about the symptoms of menopause that we don’t specifically feel?
Due to the hormonal changes during this time, when your ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone, bone health is affected.
Until the age of 30, it is normal to build more bone tissue than what is naturally lost. After menopause, this scale is tipped where bone breakdown overtakes bone growth. The ‘level’ you start at is very important. If you are a woman who has a lifetime of lower bone mass (e.g. due to minimal weight bearing exercise, chronic illness, genetic factors), it will mean you will have less ‘buffer’ to where your bone density may become an issue.
Once a certain level of low bone density is reached, a person has osteoporosis– meaning ‘porous bone’. As you can imagine this makes the bone less strong.
You may not be aware you have osteoporosis until your bones become so weak that a simple bump or fall could result in a break. Scary!
What can you do to help yourself?
The great news is weight-bearing, resistance exercise (using weights) is a great way to help improve bone health, along with a balanced diet.
The even better news – the earlier you start making these lifestyle changes and include resistance-based exercise in your routine, the better your bone health will be.
When you exercise your muscles contract and then pull on your bone. The bone is then triggered to lay down more bone to make that area ‘tougher’. When you put a hard force through a bone such as jumping or stepping up a step the bone is again triggered to lay down more bone and make itself tougher.
With the right advice and guidance and support you can improve you bone density with exercise. But knowing just what is right for you is really tricky. Thats where physio can make all the difference. We understand the pathology of Osteoporosis and generalised bone development. We understand menopause and the impact of hormones. Most importantly we know how to apply that to individuals and exercise.
Call Vital Core on 08 8331 0552 to find out more information about our resistance-based exercise classes, or book online to see one of our physiotherapists.
They will perform a specialised bone health assessment. Then together your physio and you can make a plan to get you out enjoying life with strong bones.