Studies suggest that roughly half of all women aged 50 and older will break a bone because of osteoporosis, but fewer adults at risk for osteoporosis are getting bone density screening, resulting in fewer diagnoses that could help keep women safe.
Your bones are in a constant state of regeneration. When you’re young, your body produces bone faster than you lose it, but as you age, bone production slows. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the body loses too much or makes too little bone, or both, causing weak, brittle bones. Since you can’t feel your bones losing mass, osteoporosis doesn’t cause any symptoms, so you may not know you have it until you break a bone.
There are several factors that contribute to osteoporosis, including your gender, age and lifestyle choices. Women are more likely to develop the disease, and the risk of having weak bones increases as you get older. There are some things you can do to help prevent osteoporosis, such as getting the right amount of calcium and vitamin D and exercising. However, without proper diagnosis and treatment in those who already have the disease, it will worsen. Bones become weaker and thinner, and the risk for fracture increases.
A bone density screening is a noninvasive test that checks how strong your bones are, and it is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis. The screening can help prevent broken bones due to the disease by predicting your chances of breaking a bone in the future. Doctors use bone density screenings to determine if you need osteoporosis medication. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises women to begin bone density screening at age 65. If you’re younger than 65 but have broken a bone or have other osteoporosis risk factors, your physician may recommend earlier screening.
Exercise does more than strengthen your muscles. High-impact weight-bearing exercises help build bones and keep them strong, lowering your osteoporosis risk. Examples of high-impact exercises include:
If you are at risk for breaking a bone because of osteoporosis, you may need to avoid high-impact exercise. If your doctor thinks this applies to you, opt for these gentler alternatives:
Check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program to see what’s right for you.
To learn more about bone density screening and osteoporosis, visit stvincent.org/Services/Womens-Health/Bone-Health-and-Osteoporosis.