Osteoporosis is the weakening of bones as they lose density. Women who are past menopause are at the highest risk of having osteoporosis. Therefore, it's important to have a thorough understanding of what osteoporosis is and what its risk factors are.
One reason osteoporosis is so prevalent among postmenopausal women is because menopause causes estrogen levels to drop, and this is a big risk factor for osteoporosis. Estrogen levels can also be reduced by by hysterectomies, which is the surgical removal of the ovaries. Too much or too little of other hormones in the body are also risk factors for osteoporosis. For example, too much thyroid hormone can precipitate bone loss.
It's well known that calcium is essential for making bones dense and strong. However, calcium cannot be absorbed properly by the body without magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Vitamin D is usually the nutrient associated with calcium. People usually get vitamin D by being out in the sun, but if this is not possible vitamin D is also found in some fish, and is fortified in some foods like milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereal.
If you have a low body mass index (BMI), you are at a higher risk for this disease. Also women with small frames in general are more likely to get osteoporosis, so if you have a small frame it is important to take control of the risk factors you can change.
Although men also get osteoporosis, women are much more likely to get it. In fact, 70% individuals with osteoporosis are female. Men lose calcium in their bones at a slower rate than women. Part of the reason for this is because women's estrogen levels decline during menopause, causing bone mass loss.
Lifestyle choices, dietary patterns, or hereditary bone problems affect you more as you age. Aging also causes a natural and gradual decline in bone density. It's recommended that women over the age of 65 are checked for osteoporosis.
The first sign of osteoporosis for some people may be a bone fracture, often times occurring in the wrist or hips. It is important to talk to your doctor about osteoporosis if you think this condition may have contributed to your fracture. Getting a bone density test is painless and similar to getting an X-ray. This test will let you and your doctor known if you have osteoporosis, and from there you can take steps to treat it.
Osteoporosis can be a painful and difficult condition to live with. However, it is never too early or too late to take control and do what you can to reduce your risk factors. This will help you to have healthier, stronger bones.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation. Calcium and Vitamin D: What you need to know. Retrieved from http://nof.org/calcium
- Osteoporosis Canada. (2015). Osteoporosis: Testing. Retrieved from http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/diagnosis/testing/
- Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. (2012). Once is enough: A guide to preventing future fractures. Retrieved from http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/default.asp