Osteoporosis in Women

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bone. The inside of your bones normally looks like a honeycomb. Osteoporosis is when the spaces in the honeycomb get larger and the surface of the bone gets thinner. The bones become weaker and are easier to break.

You probably won’t know you have osteoporosis until an injury such as a bump or fall causes the bone to break. Others signs are getting shorter, severe back pain, or a hump in your spine as the bones in your spine get weaker and are pushed closer and closer together.

Am I at risk for osteoporosis?

Although men can develop osteoporosis, women are more likely to get osteoporosis than men since women’s bones are already less dense than men’s bones. Also, women tend to lose bone mass after menopause.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • being thin and small boned
  • being white or Asian
  • breaking a bone as an adult
  • having abnormal or skipped periods
  • having a family member with osteoporosis
  • having certain diseases, such as hyperthyroidism
  • having your ovaries removed before age 45
  • going through menopause before age 45
  • smoking
  • having more than two drinks of alcohol a day
  • not getting enough exercise
  • not getting enough calcium AND vitamin D
  • taking certain medicines for more than 3 months, such as steroids

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

The signs and symptoms of osteoporosis usually don’t appear until you have lost a great deal of bone mass, you should have a bone density test (a screening test for osteoporosis) if you are over age 65. If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, you may need the test before age 65. This screening test is similar to an x-ray and is painless and safe. You may also need blood test or other test before having the bone density screening.

How is osteoporosis treated?

Osteoporosis is treated with diet and exercise. Make sure you get enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D is important because it helps your body absorb the calcium. Eat low fat and fat-free dairy products, dried figs, dark green leafy vegetables, fish, juices. Some cereals and breads have added calcium. If there is not enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, your doctor may prescribe a calcium or vitamin D pill.

Avoid carbonated drinks (sodas); too much salt, caffeine or alcohol; and red meat. These foods can slow down your absorption of calcium.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. If you smoke, quit.

Ask your doctor what type of exercise is best for you. You will need to find something you like and will do regularly to strengthen your bones and muscles. Weight bearing exercises are best, such as walking.

Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe osteoporosis medicine as well.

How can I prevent osteoporosis?

Some risk factors you can’t change, but other risk factors can be changed with healthy living habits like changes in your diet and starting an exercise program.

Other steps you can take:

  • prevent falls by keeping the floor clear of clutter such as magazines, cords or other items you could trip over
  • if you can’t see well, get glasses or have your prescription checked
  • if you have trouble walking use a cane or walker
  • wear shoes that tie on and have rubber soles and low heels
  • make sure rooms are well lit during the day and use night-lights at night
  • if you take medicines that make you drowsy ask your doctor if your medicine can be adjusted or changed.

You can find more information at the following Web sites:

National Osteoporosis Foundation

American College of Rheumatology

This information was adapted from the patient education series in the April edition of Nursing 2006 magazine.

Tags: Bone, Vitamin D, Endocrinology, Stress fracture, osteoporosis, Osteology, Calcium

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