Women At Greater Risk For Osteoporosis

By: Community Health Associates

Did you know that being a woman puts you at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis than it does for men? Likewise, your risk of having fractures or broken bones as a result of osteoporosis increases as you age. Statistics from the National Osteoporosis Foundation reveal that out of the 10 million Americans afflicted with osteoporosis, about 80 percent (or eight million) of them are women.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Characterized by fragile, brittle, and weak bones, osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder that can lead to fractures, or worse, broken bones. In severe cases, it can lead to postural changes. Women who have osteoporosis have decreased bone density, making their spine, wrists, and hips prone to fractures and breaks.

Why Are Women More Prone To Osteoporosis Than Men?

Experts believe females are more susceptible to osteoporosis for two main reasons: Women have lighter, thinner bones than men, and women experience a sharp reduction in estrogen (a hormone that protects bones) when they reach menopause.

Even though other environmental and genetic factors could cause bone loss, a decrease in estrogen is most likely the reason behind it in women. A woman’s reproductive cycle is regulated with estrogen. It also helps keep bones healthy and strong in women and men. Women begin experiencing a significant drop in estrogen while they are premenopausal and at that time, they are more likely to experience osteoporosis and bone loss.

Around the age of 30, you have usually gained your maximum bone strength and density. As you age, your bone mass starts to decline. Women 50 years and older are at a greater risk of developing the disease. In fact, around 1 in 2 women age 50 or older will break a bone because of the disease. Women’s longer life span and thinner, lighter bones play a big role in why they are at a higher risk.

Negative Effects Of Osteoporosis

You could have osteoporosis for years before it’s detected and usually, a fracture is the first sign of having it. Advanced stages of the disease can be disabling and often lead to one or more of the negative effects below:

  • Fractures of the wrist, spine or hip.
  • Deformity of the spine (hunched back, loss of height, etc.).
  • Reduced mobility and limited function.
  • A decrease in lung capacity.
  • A loss of independence.
  • Sleeping issues.

Osteoporosis is known as the ‘silent disease’ as there are usually no early signs of bone loss. You might not even be aware you have the disease until a bump, strain, or fall leads to a broken bone.

Osteoporosis Prevention And Treatment For Women

If you suspect that you have osteoporosis, or know you have the condition, undergoing treatment is a step in the right direction for your bone health. Depending on the severity of the disease, there are several treatment options for you to consider:

  • Osteoporosis Medications. Bisphosphonates, which include Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, and Reclast, are commonly prescribed medications to treat osteoporosis. These medications help to slow bone loss.
  • Hormone Therapy. Increasing estrogen can help protect you from bone loss. Since you lose estrogen during menopause, replacing it can help your body absorb and retain calcium and slow down bone loss. There are risks involved with estrogen therapy, so it’s important that you talk with your doctor about the benefits and the risks.
  • Supplements. Your doctor may put you on a calcium citrate and calcium carbonate supplement, which are great for getting your calcium. You shouldn’t take more than 2,000 mg a day, however, since it could lead to kidney problems.
  • Exercise. Exercising makes your muscles and bones strong and helps in preventing bone loss. It keeps you mobile and active. By performing weight-bearing exercises a few times a week or more, you can help prevent osteoporosis. Jogging, walking, dancing and playing tennis are all examples of weight-bearing exercises. Strength training and balance exercises can help keep you from falling and decrease your likelihood of breaking a bone.