Updated: Feb 10
The role of bones in our body is significant, as they protect our organs, provide structural integrity, and store calcium. However, as we get older, our bone health starts to decline. For instance, you may recall that when you were a child and suffered an injury or fracture, you recovered more quickly, but as you grew older, even a minor bone injury took longer to heal. Compared to men, women are particularly more prone to bone problems. This could be because women's bones have lower bone density, and various stages of life specific to women, like pregnancy, menopause, and breastfeeding, can all impact bone health. Natural menopause and surgical menopause, such as removing the uterus and ovaries due to medical concerns, have the greatest impact when it comes to loss of bone density in women. Pregnancy and breastfeeding are associated with increased calcium demands in the body, which, if not supplemented, is taken out of bones, making them weak.
What is the bone remodelling cycle?
Our bones undergo continuous changes, from new bones being formed to old ones being broken down. This is called the bone remodelling cycle. The bone remodelling cycle is the process by which the body continuously renews and maintains the strength and integrity of the bones. It is a complex process that involves the activity of two types of cells, namely,
1. Osteoblasts- Osteoblasts are bone-producing and bone-depositing cells. They work to create new bone tissue by laying down a collagen and mineral matrix. This is known as bone formation.
2. Osteoclasts- These cells are responsible for removing old and damaged bone tissue. They function by dissolving the bone matrix and reabsorbing minerals. This is known as bone resorption.
The bone remodelling cycle is a delicate balance of osteoblast and osteoclast activity. The process starts when osteoclasts break down old bone tissue, forming spaces known as resorption cavities. Osteoblasts migrate to these cavities and start developing new bone tissue. The resorption cavities are gradually filled in as new bone tissue is formed.
The bone remodelling cycle is a dynamic process that occurs throughout life. During childhood and adolescence, the body builds bone, and the cycle favours bone formation. During adulthood, bone is maintained, and the balance between formation and resorption is in equilibrium. However, as we age, the cycle shifts in favour of resorption, resulting in a net loss of bone density and leading to a condition known as osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to weaken and become more prone to fractures. It is a common condition, particularly in women, as they tend to have smaller and thinner bones than men, which makes them more susceptible to bone loss. Women lose bone density rapidly after menopause due to decreased estrogen levels. As a result, women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, and they are also more likely to suffer fractures, particularly in the hip, spine, and wrist. If not addressed, this can lead to osteoporosis.
Reasons why bone health in women deteriorates
There are several reasons why women's bone health deteriorates over time.
1. Menopause: The hormonal changes that occur during menopause are one of the primary causes. Estrogen is essential for bone health because it helps to maintain bone density and prevent bone loss. Women lose bone density rapidly after menopause due to decreased estrogen levels.
2. Genetics: Genetics also impacts bone health; some women may have inherited a predisposition to developing osteoporosis from their parents.
3. Calcium and vitamin D deficiency: A diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D can contribute to bone loss and the development of osteoporosis. Calcium is required to form strong bones, and vitamin D aids in calcium absorption.
4. Smoking: Smoking is another risk factor for osteoporosis. It has been linked to decreased bone density and increased risk of fractures.
5. Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can also be harmful to bone health. It can impair the body's ability to absorb calcium, resulting in bone loss.
6. Sedentary Lifestyle: A lack of physical activity can lead to decreased bone density and muscle weakness, making you more prone to falls and fractures.
7. Nutritional deficiencies: Deficits in specific nutrients, such as vitamin K, can also contribute to poor bone health.
Tips to improve bone health in women
Perform weight-bearing exercises: Walking, jogging, and dancing are all weight-bearing exercises that help to build and maintain bone density. Most days of the week, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking.
Consume a calcium and vitamin D-rich diet: Calcium and vitamin D are essential for strong bones. Foods such as dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified cereals are good sources of calcium. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods.
Get plenty of sunlight: Exposure to sunlight is an essential source of vitamin D. Try to get at least 15-30 minutes of daylight per day, without sunscreen, especially during the summer months.
Stop smoking: Smoking can cause bone density loss and increase the risk of fractures. Quitting smoking has been shown to improve bone health.
Limit your alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol consumption can cause bone loss. Women should limit their alcohol consumption to one drink per day.
Take bone-building supplements: Calcium and vitamin D supplements can be beneficial for women unable to get enough of these nutrients through their diet or sunlight.
Discuss medications with your doctor: Certain medications, such as glucocorticoids, have been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Discuss your medications with your doctor to see if any alternatives may improve your bone health.
Have regular bone density screenings: Regular screenings can help detect osteoporosis at an early stage when it can be more effectively treated.
Making these lifestyle changes and incorporating them into daily routines can help women's bone health and reduce their risk of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about specific steps you can take to improve your bone health.
Backed by a team of multiple sub-specialty orthopaedic specialists and state-of-the-art facilities, Polaris Hospital has become a centre of choice for all bone-related ailments. Our team of specialists will assist you with preventive measures and treatment options to improve your bone health, avoiding any future complications.
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About The Author: Dr. Surendra Patil
Dr. Surendra Patil, MBBS, Diploma in Orthopaedics, DNB - Orthopedics Surgery, is a dynamic surgeon with skilled hands well versed in various surgical procedures in orthopedics and exceptionally well-read in his chosen expertise. He is proficient in Arthroscopic Surgeries, Adult Joint Reconstruction Surgery, Accidents & Emergencies, Joint Replacement, Healthcare Management, and Healthcare in general. He is an experienced Medical Professional with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & healthcare industry.