I’ve Got a Bone to Pick With Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis seems to have it out for women. 

Studies show that roughly 300,000 Americans over the age of 64 break a hip each year, and of those 300,000, 33% of them die within one year of the injury. 

This is a disturbing statistic—particularly for women! Women are at a much higher risk of sustaining a hip fracture since women constitute 75% of all documented cases of hip osteoporosis. This means that women’s hip bones weaken with age at a more accelerated rate than men’s, making our bones more vulnerable and susceptible to fracture. 

The hip is only one piece of the osteoporosis puzzle, but women are still at significantly greater risk of developing the condition. In fact, one in every two women over the age of 50 will sustain some kind of osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime. That statistic drops to only one in four with men of the same age group. 

But this doesn’t mean that, as women, we have no choice but to accept this fate and play the odds. Below is my four-step plan for preventing potentially fatal osteoporosis-related fractures. 

Step 1: Know What It Is

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by the deterioration of bone mass, resulting in weak and brittle bones that are significantly more prone to fractures. 

Step 2:  Know What Causes It

Blame your hormones! When it comes to osteoporosis’ prevalence in women, diminished estrogen levels are partially responsible. Bone is living tissue, which is constantly being absorbed and replaced, and estrogen is a critical ingredient to strong and healthy bones in both women and men. When women go through menopause, our estrogen levels plummet, subsequently making us more likely to experience bone loss.

Step 3: Know Your Risk

Typically, osteoporosis goes undetected in its early stages because there are virtually no symptoms until the person suffers a fracture. Therefore, it is important to assess your risk. Risk factors for women include:

  • If you are over 50 or are going through menopause
  • If you have had your ovaries removed
  • If you have experienced irregular menstrual cycles at any age
  • If you have a vitamin D or calcium deficiency
  • If you have a hyperactive thyroid or rheumatoid arthritis
  • If you consume alcohol excessively and/or smoke 

Step 4: Know Your Bone Density

Maintaining a healthy diet, consuming an adequate amount of vitamin D and calcium, and practicing weight-bearing exercises can help prevent bone loss and even reverse osteoporosis damage by strengthening weak bones. You can protect yourself further by scheduling an appointment for an osteoporosis screening if you have any of the risk factors listed above.

Whatever your age, it’s time to be proactive about osteoporosis—women and bone fractures don’t have to be joined at the hip. Follow me on Twitter @MicheleSchulzMD to stay in the loop on all things women’s health!