Osteoporosis in Women
October 12–20 is Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week. Of course, it’s important to be aware of good practices for healthy bones and joints all year long. This is especially true for women, as women are at a significantly greater risk of developing osteoporosis. In fact, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the condition affects roughly 200 million women around the world.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the bones. The name means “porous bone.” In bones affected by osteoporosis, the normal small holes in our bones become much larger due to decreased bone mass. When the body loses too much bone or doesn’t make enough bone (or both), the bones become much weaker—as seen in the larger holes in the bone. In the case of a fall, they break more easily. In serious cases of osteoporosis, bones have been known to break from such seemingly minor things as coughing or a slight bump.
Why Are Women at Greater Risk?
Women are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis than men for a few reasons. Women actually start out with an overall lower bone density than men. As women age, they tend to lose bone mass more quickly than men do as well. Men tend to reach their peak bone mass at a slightly later age—around 20—than women do (normally around age 18.) After that, men’s bodies continue to add smaller amounts of bone mass at a higher rate than women.
How Can I Prevent Osteoporosis?
Fortunately, osteoporosis is preventable. It’s important to start healthy bone habits early, however, since the disease may have its roots in young adulthood. For starters, getting just 30 minutes of exercise on a regular basis (at least four times a week) can be a big help in keeping your bones healthy and strong. Strength training is especially beneficial, so make it part of your regular workout regimen. Great examples of workouts that build strength and boost your bone health include:
- Water aerobics
Diet is also important for promoting bone health and preventing osteoporosis. Calcium is the main component of your teeth and bones, so you must be sure to get enough of it in your diet. Dairy products, such as low-fat or non-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt, are fantastic sources of calcium. You should also drink juices that have been fortified with calcium or consider taking a calcium supplement if you have real concerns about getting enough.