Every woman having a hysterectomy needs to know that there is a lot she can do to prevent osteoporosis. Unfortunately, many women are not aware of how important screening for osteoporosis is after a hysterectomy.
If your ovaries were removed during your hysterectomy then you can expect to prematurely go into menopause. Premature menopause is associated with a higher risk of getting osteoporosis later in life. However, this study shows that this may also be true for women with an ovary-sparing hysterectomy.
With the onset of menopause, your ovaries produce less and less estrogen. Estrogen plays an important role in the production of new bone and female bone health. Loss of estrogen during menopause will accelerate bone loss.
Osteoporosis is a disease where your bones become porous and weak and you are at a higher risk of fractures. You may not be aware of the fact you have osteoporosis. This disease is usually without symptoms and is only discovered when the bones are so fragile that it causes fractures.
Risk factors that make you more vulnerable to developing osteoporosis are your diet, your hormones, your genes and your lifestyle.
5 strategies for how to prevent osteoporosis after hysterectomy
- Start to exercise on a regularly base
- Eat foods rich in bone-forming nutrients and take supplements if needed
- Stop bad lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol
- Try to keep a healthy weight
- Check for osteoporosis with a bone density test and get proper treatment if needed
1. Exercises to prevent osteoporosis
One more good reason for women to regularly exercise after hysterectomy is that it will hold off the gradual decline in bone mass. The following exercises will help you build stronger bones and muscles and make you more flexible and balanced. This may protect you from future falls and fractures.
Depending on the strength of your bones, you will have to avoid certain high impact exercises. Osteoporosis makes bones and joints fragile, this means jumping and dynamic weight-bearing exercises are not safe to do. Check with your doctor before starting any of these exercises. He may want to do some tests before he can recommend which exercises are safe and not safe in your situation.
Now not all exercises have the same bone strengthening effect. The best exercises to prevent osteoporosis are weight-bearing exercises. This means you have to do exercises where your feet and legs support your own weight. The pressure that put on the bones during these exercises will stimulate them to form new bone and become stronger.
Some excellent weight-bearing exercises are:
- Brisk walking/ Jogging /Running
- Jumping jacks / Jumping rope
- Stair climbing
- Dancing / Aerobics
- Yoga / Pilates
Weight training for osteoporosis
Also very beneficial for improving and maintaining bone density is resistance training. You can do this at the gym with the help of equipment like weight machines, elastic bands and dumbbells. Important is that you find a way of exercising that you really enjoy. This makes it a lot easier stick with it.
If you never worked with weights, then the DVD by Susie Hathaway, safe strength training for osteoporosis, is very helpful to get started.
Jumping jacks and jumping rope
Yes, jumping and the impact of landing back on your feet is essential for improving the strength of your bones. Jumping can help increase bone density because a bone under strain will adjust to that strain by getting stronger. This exercise is great for preventing osteoporosis but because of the sudden stress put on the bones, this exercise is not suitable for women already suffering from osteoporosis.
Yoga or Pilates for osteoporosis prevention
Yoga and Pilates are exercises recommended for preventing and treating osteoporosis in post-hysterectomy women. Both of these exercises are beneficial for balance and coordination which will protect you from fall-related fractures. Though, some movements may be risky for women with osteoporosis of the spine as they can cause vertebral fractures. For example, bending from the waist with straight legs to reach your toes and a seated twist of the spine are risky movements that may cause injuries.
Dr. Loren Fishman developed a safe Yoga exercise program to reverse the osteoporotic bone loss. The program is for all women with adapted exercises for women with osteopenia or osteoporosis. In this video, Dr. Fishman shows you 12 yoga poses that will only take 12 minutes daily to do.
2. Foods to prevent osteoporosis
What you eat is crucial for maintaining healthy bones. When you don’t get enough calcium from your diet the body will draw this mineral from your bones. Usually, a balanced diet will help to absorb all the calcium you need. Mind, that consuming high levels of protein and salt will increase the amount of calcium that leaves your body in the urine.
Essential for the body to absorb calcium is vitamin D. Most people get enough vitamin D from sun exposure (the skin produces Vitamin D) and from their diet. So, not getting enough vitamin D is also related to bone loss.
Another mineral key for bone health is magnesium. Without magnesium, vitamin D cannot convert into its active form which is needed for calcium absorption. Several studies show that when women increase their magnesium consumption, it can help prevent or reverse osteoporosis. So, the correct levels of these minerals are crucial for the best absorption and metabolism of calcium. Focus on eating a well-balanced diet that includes all of these bone-related minerals. Below you can see the foods that are rich in these minerals and will help to protect your bones.
Do you need supplements to prevent osteoporosis after hysterectomy?
Sometimes women do not get enough calcium, magnesium or vitamin D from their diet and need to take a supplement. Women under 50 need about 1000mg of calcium per day and if you’re over 50 about 1200 mg per day. Half of this amount is easily obtained from food. If you believe you are not getting enough calcium this way you can take a daily supplement. The recommended dose is 500mg to 700mg per day. Don’t go overboard with these supplements. Taking too much calcium is not without risk. Calcium can build up in your arteries and put you at risk of heart disease. It is also a well-known risk of developing kidney stones.
What is the best calcium for osteoporosis?
The most commonly used types of calcium are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is less expensive, may cause constipation and people with low stomach acid may have difficulty absorbing this.
Where calcium citrate usually costs more it is also easier absorbed. A little trick to see how easily your calcium dissolves is to add a calcium tablet to a glass with some vinegar. Be patient, this may take up to half an hour to dissolve. If it dissolves completely in the vinegar then it will do the same in your body.
3. Bad lifestyle habits that may cause osteoporosis
Controlling bad lifestyle habits can make all the difference between weak and strong bones. The tiniest changes in your bone mass can have an immense effect on your overall bone health.
We discussed what you can do to prevent osteoporosis, now here are 5 things that you absolutely shouldn’t do.
- A sedentary lifestyle is disastrous for your bones. When you are inactive you will lose muscle mass and strength. As there is no strain from the muscles on your bones, they will not get the signal that they need to make more bone. This will lead to bone loss and eventually osteoporosis.
- You know that smoking is bad for you but did you know that it puts you at a higher risk for osteoporosis? Many studies show the relationship between smoking and an increased risk of bone loss and fractures. But these studies also show that once you quit smoking, the rate of bone loss will slow down.
- Chronic drinking, especially at a younger age, can jeopardize a woman’s bone quality and increase her risk of osteoporosis later in life. Unfortunately, in this case, the harmful effects done to the bones cannot be reversed, even if she stops drinking completely. Alcohol also hinders the absorption of calcium and can cause vitamin d deficiency because of its destructive effect on the liver.
- Eating a diet high in sodium may accelerate bone loss. Too much salt will cause an increased calcium loss in the urine and some of it will be directly drawn from the bones.
- A bad posture like bending over a computer at your desk all day or leaning forward while driving your car can create a c-curve of the spine known as kyphosis. Nowadays many people suffer from forward head posture or FHP. This condition increases your risk for fractures of the spine and decreases bone density. Fortunately, there are exercises you can do that will completely fix this problem.
4. Keep a healthy weight
You may have thought that being overweight is a risk factor for bone loss and fractures but surprisingly it is not. It is the underweight women who have an increased risk. This is of course not an excuse for being overweight as this will raise your risk of many other health conditions.
Keeping a healthy weight will help prevent osteoporosis after hysterectomy. Losing weight after hysterectomy for women who are obese has many health benefits. But losing more than 10 percent of your total body weight may become an issue for your bone integrity.
When you try to lose weight after hysterectomy, it is important you include physical activities and an adequate amount of calcium in your diet to protect your bones.
5. Testing for osteoporosis
Women need to check their bone density on a regular base following their hysterectomy. Acting on the early signs of bone loss with the right treatment will help prevent osteoporosis.
A bone density scan or DEXA is an easy and painless procedure that takes the most twenty minutes. You have to lie still on a padded table while the machine scans your hips and spine and measures your bone mass.
The test results in the form of a T-score will show you the bone density you have compared to a healthy thirty-year-old. The lower the T-score the lower your bone density.
- A T-score higher than -0.1 is considered normal.
- A T-score of -2.5 and lower indicates you have osteoporosis.
- Anything in between they consider low bone density or Osteopenia
Women have four times more chance of low bone density or osteoporosis than men. Especially postmenopausal women or women who had a hysterectomy have a one in three chance that they will have a fracture due to osteoporosis.
Most common are vertebral, wrist and hip fractures. An osteoporosis vertebral fracture also known as compression fracture is extremely painful.
Now it’s up to you. You have learned what you can do to prevent osteoporosis. Follow these osteoporosis lifestyle tips and you will enjoy strong healthy bones for the rest of your life.