CAN HRT REALLY HELP ME AVOID OSTEOPOROSIS?
What is Osteoporosis?
“Osteoporosis means ‘porous bone”. It describes the cavities that develop in ageing bones as they slowly degenerate. Bones have been thinned by these cavities so are less able to hold a person’s weight…Women over the age of 50 have four times the rate of Osteoporosis than men and their fractures occur five to ten years earlier than men’s”
Taken from Oestrogen Matters (chapter 4: 2018)
It’s no coincidence that when your ovaries stop making estrogen, resulting in your bones becoming thinner, you have a higher risk of osteoporosis. This is when your bones can break more easily – even breaking from a simple hug or getting out of bed!
It is sadly quite hidden within the NICE Guidelines but as with many other health issues (dementia, diabetes, depression, heart disease), estrogen is a huge factor in offering women added protection from Osteoporosis. Taking a calcium supplement every day isn’t going to cut it!
Taking a calcium supplement every day isn’t going to cut it!
The above quote outlines one of the many key reasons why estrogen is so important for the long term wellbeing of women and I urge you to read the referenced book!
As with all wellbeing advice and guidance, we must aim for a well balanced and varied diet where at all possible. This will play a big part in avoiding chronic conditions as we age, and by including fruit, veg, carbohydrates, dairy, and protein in our daily meals will go a long way towards protecting our bodies from harm.
Avoiding smoking, excesses of alcohol and caffeine, as well as regular gentle weight bearing exercise, are also all key to a healthy body.
Whilst Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is not going to solve all our potential health problems, it is vital when considering our overall health, to look at replacing the hormone deficiency of peri and post menopause.
Why is HRT even necessary?
Until around the 1800s, women didn’t live long enough to experience many of the symptoms we now feel with peri menopause (including symptoms of Osteoporosis).
We were born, we had babies then we died before our mid 40s… so it’s only in recent years we’ve needed to, and been able to, address the challenges that come with our new longer lifespan.
So we’re alive! and that’s a positive thing but I for one don’t see the logic in accepting the hormone deficiency and all that accompanies it, when we have a perfectly effective solution.
Currently less than 15% of peri/post menopausal women are taking the opportunity to access HRT. This is in no small part due to the 2002 WHI study which looked at risks around taking HRT. This study has now been evidenced to be flawed – the benefits of HRT far outweigh the risks – and has been retracted.
It’s Not New News!
In 1940 Fuller Albright (an honoured Endocrinologist) clearly identified that estrogen plays a big part in bone flexibility rather than bone strength. The flexibility is the most important element as with this comes the ability to fend off breaks from simple knocks and bumps.
Strength and rigidity (stiffness) are not the key to Osteoporosis issues but the ability for the bones to be more flexible is paramount.
Estrogen is like your ‘flexible friend’ It even affects your lungs’ sponginess and flexibility!
Fuller’s studies showed that post menopausal Osteoporosis was not affected positively (or negatively) by adding in vitamin D and/or Calcium but estrogen made a big difference!
More recent studies have shown that Calcium and Vitamin D supplements affect density of bones rather than resilience and the resilience (flexibility) is what matters here.
HRT is for LIFE
Even with increased media publicity on menopause, it’s still a little known fact that HRT is more than just a remedy for hot flushes. It has a wide range of other benefits (too many to list in this blog) including added protection against Osteoporosis.
Estrogen is essential to protect us from cardiovascular and estrogen related bone diseases.
Estrogen also aids our cognitive function, hence when our estrogen levels decrease women often experience brain fog during peri and post menopause.
The evidence suggests that the timing of HRT could be crucial in reducing the risk of serious illness including Osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s, and that the sooner women take it, the more protective it is.
Younger Women & Menopause
It’s really important for younger women to replace their hormone deficiency if they have become prematurely peri menopausal; known as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) it’s really important for them to replace their hormone deficiency.
Younger women with low estrogen are going to be deficient for much longer than many other women so need to be protected from the problems that can arise from that, including Osteoporosis.
I have a few peri and post menopausal clients who are in their 20s and early 30s. They have struggled on with bone and joint pains for a long time before being ‘permitted’ to take the HRT they desperately need.
One lady aged 31 years asked me if it was normal to break her wrist doing the washing up! It isn’t!