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Osteoporosis and Bone Health

Fragile, weak, or brittle bones are typically thought of as something that afflicts older women. Though the risk of getting osteoporosis increases with age, it can surface at any age in both men and women of all races. Bone is living tissue which continuously is absorbed and replaced. When the creation of new bone does not keep pace with the removal of old bone, osteoporosis occurs. Currently 8 million of the 10 million Americans estimated to have osteoporosis are women, and although the disease is not curable, it is treatable and preventable.

Bone health is an essential part of any woman’s health and it should ideally begin in adolescence. By age 18, girls have already developed 85-90% of their bone mass and building strong bones early in life is an excellent form of prevention. Do not despair if teenage years are a thing of the past, it is never too late to start taking steps to promote optimal bone health and focus on osteoporosis prevention.

The most common form of bone disease, osteoporosis can result from a combination of factors. Heredity, diet, hormones, age, and lifestyle all impact a woman’s bone health and level of risk for osteoporosis. Though bone mass changes very little between adolescence and menopause, the choices made during this time can greatly affect bone density.  A diet of foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, regular weight-bearing exercise, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking will keep bones strong and healthy.

Predictors of low bone mass and signs of osteoporosis:
  • Increased age
  • Female gender
  • Caucasian race
  • Low weight and body mass index (BMI)
  • Menopause (especially if early)
  • Other estrogen deficiency
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Consumption of alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages
  • Loss of height
  • Osteopenia
  • Bone fracture

Knowing the facts and talking to your physician can keep osteoporosis from surfacing unexpectedly. Ask your physician about a bone health assessment and screening to check family medical history and measure bone mass. Even though we can’t see the results, diet, exercise, and overall health and wellness matter to bones too.

For more on National Osteoporosis Month and informational resources visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the National Bone Health Alliance.

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