Osteoporosis in Women
by Gemma Carter


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The Dangers of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects more than 25 million Americans, and most of these are women. 1.2 million bone fractures each year in the US are related to osteoporosis and shockingly according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation one in two women and one in eight men over 50 will have an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime. Sadly, statistics also report twenty percent of hip fracture patients will die in the following year if they receive no aftercare.

What is Osteoporosis?

Bones are in a constant state of re-growth but as we age the rate of degeneration become faster than the rate of re-growth and osteoporosis develops. This makes bones become thin and fragile leading to an increased risk of injury.

Osteoporosis bone fractures can be considerably painful resulting in days off work and disability. Elderly patients are even more at risk as they can further develop pneumonia and blood clots in the leg veins which can travel to the lungs (causing pulmonary embolisms) due to chronic bed rest. It is obvious to see the importance of awareness and prevention is paramount.

Women are especially at risk later on in life as they go through menopause. With lowering levels of oestrogen birth control pills also prevent osteoporosis as they contain oestrogen and progesterone which increase bone density. During the first five to ten years after menopause, women can suffer up to two to four percent loss of bone density per year! This results in a loss of about 25 to 30 percent of their bone density in that period. This shows how much of a risk osteoporosis for women.

Bone strength and risk factors for Osteoporosis

Bone mass (bone density) is the amount of bone present in the skeletal structure. Generally a higher bone density means stronger bones. It is influenced by many factors such as genetics, environment and lifestyle.

Normally bone density rises in childhood peaking at an age of 25 which is maintained for about 10 years. At about 35, both men and women will normally lose 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent per year as the ageing process occurs.

Risk factors:
Female
  • Caucasian or Asian race
  • Thin body frames
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Personal history of fractures
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lack of exercise
  • Low calcium diet
  • Poor health and general nutrition
  • Mal-absorption
  • Low oestrogen levels
  • Chemotherapy
  • Chronic inflammations due to disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Certain medications
How is Osteoporosis diagnosed?

Routine x-rays can reveal osteoporosis as the bones appear much thinner and lighter. However, this may mean it is too late as by the time osteoporosis is detectable on x-rays, at least 30 percent of the bone has been lost.

It is now recommended that those at risk try a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scan (DXA, formerly known as DEXA) as this measures the bone density in the hip and spine more precisely and with a reduced risk of radiation as it only takes 10-15 minutes. Having this test early may mean osteoporosis can be caught earlier and treated more successfully.

If you think you are at risk of osteoporosis contact your local doctor, hospital or the National Osteoporosis Foundation. The main risk categories are:

  • Postmenopausal women below 65
  • All women over 65
  • Postmenopausal women with fractures
  • Women with medical conditions associated with weak bones
Part 2 will follow describing how to treat and prevent osteoporosis with a focus on diet and exercise.

Article by:

Gemma Carter who is a fully trained fitness and life coach. Visit her website at http://www.cartercoaching.co.uk or email her at: gemma@cartercoaching.co.uk

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