Taking Osteoporosis In Stride

Most women suffer from osteoporosis after they hit their menopausal stage. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by bones becoming so thin and fragile that they are more likely to break easily. Without treatment, this condition may progress without any sign of pain until a bone breaks. Fractures usually occurs in the hip, spine and wrist — bone injuries that require cast work, hospitalization, and even major surgery. Osteoporosis is a disease that makes it hard for a person to walk unassisted and may lead to permanent disability, or even death. Other serious consequences include height loss, severe back pain, and deformity.

Women are more likely to develop the said condition than men. The bone disease may start anytime, depending on the severity of calcium deficiency in the bones. During the prime bone-growing years of 12 to 20 years old, women should already be aware of what make their bodies and bones grow stronger or weaker.

According to Dr. Roberto Pacifici, chief of endocrinology at Emory University, genetics plays a major role in determining bone health. He also cited the following variables as significant to having strong bones during the prime age of 12 to 20 years old:

* Normal Body Weight

* Normal Menstrual Periods

* Normal Types of Medication

* Normal Physical Activity

Pacifi emphasized the need for young women to make sure that their estrogen production levels are normal by having normal menstrual periods, which is usually achieved through proper nutrition. Young women should also avoid taking certain medications that inhibit estrogen production, such as steroids and cortisone. Having a low body weight is also a factor in skeletal growth. Although eating disorders may cause a small group of women to have low body weight, serious athletes like competitive runners and gymnasts make up the larger group that is at risk. While physical activity is good, it can be unhealthy when done in excess amounts of time and level of exertion.

But as women mature from 20 to around 50 years old, things change and the guidelines become more centered on moderation. Pacifici advised moderate alcohol intake, or limiting to only two drinks a day since over three drinks a day would be considered excessive. He believes the best way for women in this age-group to keep their bones strong is to keep their body weight within normal levels and make sure that they engage in regular exercise.

It is at this stage that women need to start taking a calcium supplement. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women under 50 get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Calcium is essential to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D. It has been noted that lack of awareness about the importance of supplementation has caused many people to have vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is necessary for our bodies to effectively absorb calcium.

Most women will experience the onset of bone loss at the age of 50, or about 3 years prior to menopause. The amount will depend on how well those bones were treated up to that point. Pacifici says most women start experiencing bone loss about three years prior to menopause — which is the reason why many doctors recommend women to increase their calcium intake to 1,500 milligrams daily.

Osteoporosis is considered a silent disease with no obvious symptoms until bones begin to fracture or break easily. Doctors advise women to get a bone density screening test done by taking an X-ray of a woman’s lower spine and hip area. It can be done anytime after menopause. But those with a family history of osteoporosis are at high risk and should get this screening done when they go through menopause.

According to Pacifici, the test is similar to a cholesterol screening, which is neither painful nor extremely expensive. But the significance of the test lies in the opportunity to gain information on how people can improve their chances of living happy, healthy lives in the future.

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