3 Tips To Improve Musculoskeletal Health For Women
Although the health of your musculoskeletal system is important for everyone, women are especially vulnerable to bone loss and other complications as they age. Keeping your bones and muscles healthy can mean your musculoskeletal system performs at its best for a lifetime.
It is never too early to focus on your musculoskeletal health, but it may be too late. Women are at higher risk for developing bone density loss as they age, and this can begin as soon as their 30s. Beginning in your teenage years, you should make sure you are supplementing with calcium and vitamin D to support bone health. Eating a well-rounded diet can help, but it is difficult to ensure you are incorporating enough of these bone-strengthening nutrients through diet alone.
Another consideration when using supplements is the timing of them and what other supplements you are taking. As a woman, it is important to make sure you are taking enough iron and folic acid, especially if you are menstruating. Unfortunately, calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, so you should be mindful of the way you take supplements. Generally, multivitamins do not have a full day's worth of calcium. So, if you take a multivitamin, try taking it in the morning with your first meal and taking a separate calcium and vitamin D supplement with a different meal. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, make sure your meal has some healthy fats.
A major consideration for women is the incorporation of weight-bearing exercises to increase and maintain bone density. Many women simply choose cardio for its fat-burning capabilities and the stigma associated with gaining muscle. Building more muscle mass is one of the best exercises you can do for your long-term overall and musculoskeletal health. When weight-training is done correctly, you not only strengthen the muscles, but their supporting structures, too. This can translate into better functional fitness as you age and fewer risks of injury. Some types of cardio you might want to incorporate that are also good for bone health are running or high-intensity aerobics. If you already have joint concerns, these exercises can put stress on your joints, further increasing pain. Some people find the elliptical is a better compromise between using the treadmill and joint-sparing exercises, such as swimming.
Learn About Screenings
A common screening tool is a bone density scan, which is usually recommended for women over 65. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or medical conditions that affect your bones and joints, you will need to speak with your doctor to make sure you are being screened earlier. Bone density screenings are critical as you age because osteoporosis does not have any warning signs. Generally, women only find out they have osteoporosis when they experience a fall, accident, or some benign incident, such as coughing or sneezing, that causes a fracture.
Younger women who frequently use corticosteroids for chronic diseases or those with a condition affecting their joints should be mindful of changes in their x-rays. Significant decreases in bone density can occur from autoimmune diseases or frequent use of corticosteroids. If this is mentioned on your x-rays, be sure to discuss the findings with your doctor. Your doctor might make recommendations, such as increasing your calcium intake or changes in your current chronic disease management plan. Further decreases in bone density when you have an underlying chronic musculoskeletal disease are also indicative of insufficient disease control and need to be addressed.
Although there is no way to guarantee you will never experience bone loss or other musculoskeletal problems as you age, improving your bone, muscle, and joint health is a start. Having the right amount of nutrients and engaging in strengthening exercises will give you the best chance at avoiding problems. Talk to your primary care doctor for more information.