How women can build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After menopause, hormone changes can lead to a rapid decrease in bone density. That’s why women are at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men, but no matter your age, you can take steps to build bone mass and prevent bone loss.

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that causes them to become weak and break easily. It affects mostly older women, but prevention starts when you’re younger. “We don’t want to find out about it when someone has a fracture; we want to be able to identify someone who has osteoporosis or risk of osteoporosis long before they have an injury,” said Dr. Sara Clark, Chief of Endocrinology at Albany Medical Center.

She says bone density screenings are recommended for women at age 65, but we should be assessing our risk well before then. “What we’re thinking about is what’s your likelihood of having a fracture at some point in your life? And what can we do to help lessen that risk?”

Women are at even greater risk of developing osteoporosis if they go through early menopause, had absent periods due to over-exercising or dieting, or have a small build or family history of the disease. Also at risk are those with a sedentary lifestyle, heavy drinkers, and smokers.

“How do we encourage increased physical activity? How do we encourage smoking cessation? How do we encourage consumption of calcium or increase exposure of vitamin D?” Clark asks.

A diet including good sources of vitamin D and calcium and weight-bearing physical activity, like walking, are the best ways to build strong bones. “It’s also about what can we do to promote core strength, what can we do to promote good balance, what can we do to promote flexibility, agility. Because everything that we can do to lessen the risk for fall is going to lessen the risk for fracture,” said Dr. Clark.

Even a small fracture can have a traumatic impact on a woman’s life. “All of the sudden, somebody who is used to being independent and being able to go out and do everything independently no longer can do that,” she said. “It’s really hard to gain that back.”

The most serious complications—fractures of the spine or hip—lead to an increased risk of death. “The likelihood of passing away in the year after a hip fracture is up to 20 percent, it’s a devastating illness,” said Dr. Clark.

If you want to incorporate more calcium in your diet think low-fat dairy products, dark leafy greens, and calcium-fortified cereals, and orange juice. You also need to get enough vitamin D to help your body use the calcium it gets. It’s hard to get enough through food alone so your doctor may recommend supplements to help keep your bones healthy. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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