Osteoporosis In Women: Here's How Women Can Ensure Healthy Bones
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects bones of an individual and increases the risk of fractures. Women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Here's all you need to know.
Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures
- Maintaining a healthy weight can help improve bone health
- Add enough calcium to your diet to boost bone health
- Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium from the diet consumed
Osteoporosis is a condition affecting the bones in your body which causes them to become very weak or fragile. Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease. This is because it does not cause any symptoms and most patients are not aware that they have osteoporosis until they have a fracture. As a result, the bones in your body are more susceptible to fracture (break easily) with a trivial slip and fall or a mild impact. The most common regions of your body that are affected are your wrists, hips and spine. Bone density (strength of your bones) peaks around the age of 20-25 and starts to decline from the age of 35-40. Thus, it is commonly seen in the age group above 45-50, where one in three women and one in five men suffer from osteoporosis.
All About Osteoporosis
Age and menopause are the biggest risk factors, which particularly puts post-menopausal women at a higher risk. After menopause, the levels of the hormone estrogen decreases in the body and one of the important functions of estrogen is to help strengthen your bones. Risk factors include poor diet i.e. low calcium and vitamin D intake, some medicines, sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol, genetic factors and those individuals with other medical problems like that of the thyroid gland, intestinal or kidney issues and rheumatoid arthritis.
Diagnosis and screening:
For evaluation of osteoporosis, your doctor will order a DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan which is basically a bone mineral density test. In this test a T score of -2.5 or less indicates osteoporosis. In India, there is a lack of awareness amongst the population and uniform screening measures are lacking.
The good news is that osteoporosis is preventable. Regular exercise (especially weight-bearing exercises like walking), a well-balanced diet, timely screening, eliminating aforementioned risk factors, avoidance of smoking and limiting alcohol consumption are important to prevent osteoporosis.
The recommended daily intake for calcium is about 1,000-1,500 mg/day depending on factors such as age and menopause. Rich sources of calcium are dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, green leafy vegetables, fish, broccoli, etc.
A common myth amongst people is that only calcium is required for strengthening your bones. However, without adequate vitamin D in your body, calcium cannot be absorbed from your diet. Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get adequate vitamin D i.e. about 15-30 minutes of mid-day sun. Other means include dietary intake or supplements. For treatment of osteoporosis, based on the severity, medications - both in the form of oral tablets and injections are used.
(Dr. Sahil Sanghavi, Orthopaedic Surgeon from Sancheti Institute of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Pune)
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