Women’s Health A-Z
Bone Health & Osteoporosis
While most of our bone growth happens during adolescence, it’s extremely important for women to build, maintain, and protect healthy bones. Bone strength is important because they protect your organs and provide your body with balance and support. If you lose too much bone mass, you could develop osteoporosis. Your bone mass usually hits its peak when you are 30 years old, and then, as you age, you lose more bone mass than you gain.
Bone Health Factors
There are many factors that can impact your bone mass. Your calcium intake, genetics, physical activity, gender, weight, age, hormones, medications, and health conditions (example: eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis) can contribute to the health of your bones. Alcohol consumption and smoking may also increase your risk for bone loss. While you may be unable to control some factors, there are steps you can take to keep your bones strong.
Nutrition & Exercise Recommendations
- Women should get 1200 mg of calcium and 1000-2000 i.u. of Vitamin D per day.
- When taking calcium, you should get at least 600-700 mg from your diet. The rest, 500-600 mg, may be taken in the form of supplements.
- Split up your intake because you can only absorb 500-500 mg at a time.
- If you are taking calcium carbonate, be sure to take it with a meal.
- Calcium citrate may be taken without a meal.
- Weight-bearing exercises also help increase bone mass and slow bone loss.
- Stay active by walking, lifting weights, doing pushups, playing tennis, or by doing another aerobic exercise.
A diagnosis of osteopenia means that your bone density is lower than it should be but it isn’t low enough to be considered osteoporosis. Still, if you have osteopenia, you have a higher than average risk for developing osteoporosis. You may naturally have lower bone density. Eating disorders, medications, and various medical conditions can all contribute to bone loss. If diagnosed, you will work with your doctor to prevent further bone loss and osteoporosis. You may need to take calcium and Vitamin D supplements or medications, and you will want to focus on lifestyle changes that can help prevent bone loss.
Sometimes, bone density can be so low that osteoporosis occurs, significantly raising your risk for fracture. Estrogen helps protect against bone loss, so when the hormone declines after menopause, bone loss can happen quickly. If you do have osteoporosis, you may not have symptoms for a long time. Eventually, however, you could experience fractures that could lead to disability. It important to keep up with the recommendations above and to know when to get a bone density scan. A scan will help show you and your provider if you are losing bone density before you get to the point of having symptoms.
If your doctor diagnoses you with osteoporosis, they may prescribe medication that can help protect against fracture by slowing the bone loss process. You should also exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet that meets calcium and Vitamin D recommendations, quit smoking if you are, and limit alcohol.