Studies show about half of women age 50 or older will suffer a broken bone as a result of Osteoporosis, but fortunately we can start preventing bone density loss at any age. We spoke to OrthoCarolina PA Jennifer Suckow, who told us everything we need to know about the disease.
Why are women more at risk than men?
It’s all about biology, Jen says. Women typically have smaller statures and hormone changes during menopause can wreak havoc on our bone density.
At any age
Know your risk factors: Jen says common risk factors include: taking chronic steroids, smoking, family history of fragility fractures (a fracture caused by a ground-level fall), having gastric bypass, having absorption disorders like Crohn’s disease and going through menopause.
In your 20s and 30s
Eat right: We need 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day in our diet, along with vitamin D to help us absorb it. Jen says most women can meet their calcium needs by eating one yogurt a day. Not a dairy fan? Calcium is also found in collard greens, broccoli, kale and oranges (check out this list for more ideas).
Focus on weight-bearing exercise: You may love your daily spin class, but it won’t do much for bone density. Jen says to make sure to incorporate weight-bearing exercise into your routine to help strengthen your muscles and bones. Running and walking will work also, as long as your legs are hitting the pavement.
In your 40s and 50s
Continue eating right and focusing on weight-bearing exercise: It becomes even more important as you get older.
Have your vitamin D screened: Jen says man people are vitamin D-deficient, and we need it to absorb calcium. If your numbers are low, add more fatty fish like tuna and mackerel into your diet, or consider an over-the-counter supplement.
Be aware of your medications: As we get older and unfortunately add more health issues to our plate, we need to be aware of how our medications can affect our bone density. Some medicines may reduce your ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D, and some even list Osteoporosis as a side effect. Talk to your doctor about how to counteract the problem if that’s the case.
Get a scan: Around age 50, doctors generally start scanning for Osteoporosis. But Jen says if you have a fragility fracture, you likely have Osteoporosis no matter your age.
If you’re diagnosed with Osteoporosis, your doctor will likely talk with you about pharmaceutical options. But Jen says there are things you can do at home to try to improve bone density even after the diagnosis. You’ll likely need to start taking a calcium/vitamin D supplement, and you’ll need to continue (or start) a weight-bearing exercise regimen.
Have more questions about Osteoporosis? Contact OrthoCarolina.
Meet our expert
Jennifer Suckow has a master’s degree in PA Sciences from St. Francis University and a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology/athletic training from Indiana University. She’s based out of the OrthoCarolina Hip & Knee Center.