Increase Bone Density and Prevent (and Reverse!) Osteoporosis

 Prevent Osteoporosis
by megan dahlman
July 18, 2023

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It’s called the “Silent Disease”.

Because you can’t feel it, you don’t know it’s happening inside of you, and you usually don’t know you have it until you have a fairly minor fall or even just a mistep and you end up breaking a bone - which completely sidelines you. The truth is that your bones may be more fragile than you think.

This silent disease is Osteoporosis, and you may already have it or be on the path to it.

But there are some tangible steps you can take now to build strong, dense bones - preventing osteoporosis from ever happening and even stopping its progression as you age.

Imagine this…

Imagine you go to the beach with your family for vacation. The whole crew is finally together!

On the second night, you all have reservations at a nice restaurant on the waterfront. And as you’re walking in from the parking lot, you catch your toe on the curb and lose your balance. You go down. You try to catch yourself, but you land on your side and immediately feel intensely sharp pains in your hip and in your wrist.

It hurts so bad, you think you broke something. The ambulance gets called, it’s a whole scene. You spend the whole evening in the Emergency Room, and lo and behold, you fractured your pelvis and broke your wrist.

But that’s not all. They tell you that you have osteoporosis.

You’re embarrassed. Your vacation is ruined.

And now you’re dealing with not just broken bones that might take two months to heal, but the reality that you have weak bones and it could happen again.

That’s scary!

You don’t want to feel fragile. You don’t want to feel like you could break at any moment.

But the scariest thing is that you didn’t know about it, AND there were lots of things you could have done to prevent your bones from becoming so fragile.

As women, our bones are such an afterthought. We can’t see them like we can our muscles and skin and fat and hair. And honestly, most of our self-care is directed at fat, skin and hair. Right?

But in that moment when you’re dealing with a fracture because of brittle bones, you will have wished that you did everything possible to make your bones dense and strong.

The good news is I’m going to teach you what those things are, AND these tips can actually prevent more bone loss from happening.

What is Osteoporosis?

  • Technically, osteoporosis is when your bones are really “Porous bones” have lots of little gap throughout them.
  • And yes, women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, and as many as 80% of women will be somehow impacted by either osteoporosis or its prescursor, osteopenia.
  • After age 35, bone breakdown occurs faster than bone buildup, which causes a gradual loss of bone mass if you don’t do something intentional about it.
  • And this speeds up dramatically for women in the first 10 years after menopause -
  • Estrogen protects against excessive bone loss, and when your estrogen declines, your bone loss can speed up. In fact, in the five to seven years after menopause, women can lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density.
  • This can be exacerbated by certain medications, too.
  • Most of these fractures are of the hip, wrist and spine.
  • And if you’re petite, like an Ectomorph body type, you’re more at risk.

Just an Old Lady Disease?

I do NOT want you to think of Osteoporosis as just an old lady disease, because if you think like that you probably won’t do much about it right now, especially if it’s not quite an issue for you yet.

Just like muscle loss, or sarcopenia, as you age, bone loss is a gradual thing that happens over years - and what you do RIGHT NOW…the choices you make about your body this week, this month or this year will impact your body and bones for many years to come.

Also, please know that it’s NOT too late to improve your bone density. Everything I’m going to mention is going to help the density of your bones, no matter how old you are… so start this now.

How to Improve Your Bone Density and Prevent (or even Reverse!) Osteoporosis

Nutrition: Eating the “Standard American Diet” that’s high in processed sugars, meats and carbohydrates and drinking excessive alcohol puts you at a much greater risk for low bone density. So, if this is you, you need to get your nutrition in check.

  • Instead, eat a diet that consistently has enough vitamins and minerals, including Calcium AND Vitamin D over the course of many years.
  • It’s not just about supplementing with Calcium. Too much calcium can actually lead to kidney stones
  • The best way to get these nutrients is to consistently eat a variety of protein and produce: EAT YOUR PRO’s
  • To keep it simple: The combo of Calcium and Vitamin D can be found in Dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese, Fish, dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale (So if you eat fish once or twice a week, eat yogurt or chottage cheese on a regular basis, and have a salad every day, you’re going to be far better off)
  • Bottom line - find a style of eating that is sustainable for you. If you’re yo-yoing between junk food eating one month and then super, hyper-healthy with restricted calories the next month, this is going to sabotage your bones over time. (Even if you have low bone density now, these nutrition tips will help prevent it from progressing.)

Fitness: Being sedentary is a surefire way to get osteoporosis. Consistently placing your bones under a little bit of stress makes them stronger and more dense.

  • The most effective method for improving your bone density is resistance training because when your muscles have to contract hard, this pulls on the bone and makes it build more bone in that area.
  • Ease into strength training by starting with movements that use just your bodyweight, and gradually build up to using weights, pushing/pulling hard for 6-12 repetitions two to three times per week. (My Jumpstart 30 program is the perfece plact for you to get started with those bodyweight style movements)
  • I want you to do functional movements that mimic the way your body moves in daily life to target all of your bones best, rather than just weight machines. Think squats, push-ups, rows, deadlifts movements, and good core training.
  • (These functional movements will also improve your balance, coordination and mobility, and of course your muscle mass - which all contribute to less risk of falling and getting severely hurt)
  • Walking, jogging is second-best and still helpful because there is some impact (but that’s not going to do anything for your wrists, and really not much for your hips and back either since it’s just pulling on your bones in one direction)
  • Cycling and swimming are the least beneficial for bone density
  • If you already have osteoporosis, especially in your spine, I need you to learn how to “Hip Hinge” to bend down:
  • Rounding, arching or twisting (especially at your lumbar spine) could be one of the worst things you can do. Learning how to properly hinge at the hips to bend over, and then gaining more mobility in your hips so you can hinge properly, and then building core strength around your lumbar spine is essential. (We work on all of these things together in my Jumpstart 30 program.)
  • Bottom Line: For the strongest bones possible, make sure you’re working on doing some form of functional strength training as your highest priority form of exercise a couple times per week.

The last thing I want to touch on is removing Stressors: Living a stressful life can create overactive adrenals and chronic inflammation in the body, which dramatically impacts your bone health.

  • When your bones are chronically bathing in cortisol, they will struggle to maintain their healthy density
  • I was recently working with a client that sang for large choral, which had multiple practices every week, and days-long performances - She finally realized that the stress of this was too much for her health right now. She needed to take a sabbatical for a bit to get her stress levels back on track.
  • Along those same lines of things that place stress on your body, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption is a huge cause of osteoporosis.
  • Bottom Line: Actively look to eliminate major stressors in your life or at least be proactive about managing it as best as you can so that we can get those stress hormones to calm down.

Ok, let’s says you’re a 63 year old woman:

  • You had a DEXA scan and were told you have low bone density and osteopenia, or you have a really petite frame and feel pretty concerned about your bones - what do you do?
  • Make sure you’re not sedentary and do something active everyday, but work towards strength training and eventually lifting weights 2 or 3 days a week
  • Start consistently eating a diet that’s high in the PRO’s: Protein and Produce, keeping in mind that fish, dairy and dark leafy greens are where it’s at
  • Get your stress levels in check, removing or at least better managing whatever stressors and things in your life that create anxiety for you

If you follow these steps, your bones will thank you. You can prevent more bone loss from happening.

But if you don’t do these things now, you might find yourself in that emergency situation, with broken bones that came out of nowhere. Remember, it’s called the Silent Disease for a reason.

Takeaways/Call to Action

Ok, to wrap up I always like to leave you with one simple action step that you can put into place TODAY.

  • This is a fun one - I want you to learn the hip hinge! Everybody needs to know it. Super simple movement that’s going to ensure that you can bend over safely and properly for years to come, and you can even add weight to it (turning it into a deadlift) to start building up that bone density.

Alright now listen, if you have a specific question around osteoporosis that I didn’t address, and I’ve already gotten a few so I know you have them, I still want to help you. Can you go to vigeofit.com/ask and send your question to me? That way I can specifically address it in another podcast episode or on an upcoming Ask Megan segment.

More Resources & Links

The Jumpstart 30 Program for Beginners - Build your strength; Improve your balance and mobility; Get your life back

FREE 5-Day Jumpstart Tips Guide - Get started with simple healthy habits in just 5 days

FREE 5-Day Core Tune Up - Build your functional core strength with this easy, follow-along program

The Back & Hip Fix program - 30-day program to eliminate back and hip pain for good!

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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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Hi! I’m Megan.
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Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
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