After age 40, everyone’s bones begin to lose density. For women, menopause accelerates this loss. Our bones hold 99 percent of the body’s calcium. Like other organs in our bodies, bone tissue is broken down, reabsorbed and reformed again. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the amount of calcium present in the bones slowly decreases to a point where the bones become brittle and prone to fracture. Eighty percent of people who have osteoporosis are women.
WHO IS AT GREATEST RISK?
- post-menopausal women
- thin women
- small-boned women
- women who have red or blonde hair
- women who have fair skin
- women of northern European descent
- women of Asian descent
- women who have never given birth
The symptoms of osteoporosis are bone fractures of the spine, hips or forearms. These fractures happen as a result of minor trauma such as lifting, jumping or falling from a standing position. Later stage symptoms include pain, disfigurement and debilitation.
STEPS FOR PREVENTION
- Be sure your diet includes a minimum of 1000 milligrams of calcium a day for premenopausal women and 1500 milligrams a day for postmenopausal.
- Cut back on your intake of sodium.
- Limit your intake of caffeine.
- Engage in regular activity such as walking, jogging, biking or low- or non-impact aerobics. Stop smoking; women who smoke have two to three times greater risk of spine and hip fractures.
- Limit your intake of alcohol. Heavy alcohol consumption may accelerate osteoporosis.
- Ask your doctor about estrogen or hormone replacement therapy.