Osteoporosis and Women: How to Prevent Weak Bones

Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. Osteoporosis develops gradually, usually without symptoms. A broken bone that occurs with minor trauma, such as a slight blow to the wrist, for example, is typically the first symptom. Approximately one in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime.

Bone Density Testing

If you are age 65 or older, you should get a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis. If you are younger than 65 and have risk factors for osteoporosis, ask your doctor or nurse if you need a bone density test before age 65. Bone density testing is recommended for older women whose risk of breaking a bone is the same or greater than that of a 65‑year‑old white woman with no risk factors other than age. 

A bone mineral density (BMD) test measures the strength of your bones to help assess your future risk of fractures. This test is not usually performed until after menopause unless you have an unusual clinical situation or are at high risk for osteoporosis. It is quick, painless and noninvasive.

Preventing Weak Bones

The best way to prevent weak bones is to work on building strong ones. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to start. Building strong bones during childhood and the teen years is one of the best ways to keep from getting osteoporosis later. As you get older, your bones don’t make new bone fast enough to keep up with the bone loss. And after menopause, bone loss happens more quickly.

But there are steps you can take to slow the natural bone loss with aging and to prevent your bones from becoming weak and brittle. There are five simple steps to reduce your risk for osteoporosis:

  • Increase the amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet.
  • Exercise regularly; bones and muscles respond to physical activity by becoming stronger. Weight-bearing exercises like walking and weight lifting are the most beneficial.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Being underweight or losing weight increases your risk of bone loss and fracture, and ultimately, of developing osteoporosis.
  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking (nicotine) can reduce bone mass and increase the risk of fracture, thus increasing your risk for osteoporosis. Ask your health care professional to recommend methods to help you quit.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if you drink. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases your risk of osteoporosis and fractures from falls.

For some women, medication may also be helpful for preventing additional bone loss. Ask your health care professional what the best osteoporosis prevention strategy is for you.

Finally…

The importance of beginning bone loss prevention at a very young age is now well understood. Bone health programs are being developed and implemented that targets girls as young as nine to 12 years of age and their parents, focusing on promoting good nutritional choices and participating in regular physical activity. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

(Some information provided by Healthywomen.org)