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May is National Osteoporosis Month

May is National Osteoporosis Month – and if you are woman, understanding osteoporosis could be very important to living a long and active life. About 10 million people in the US have osteoporosis, and about 34 million more individuals are at risk for developing this silent killer.

If you think osteoporosis information doesn’t apply to you, think again: one out of every two women over age 50 will suffer a broken bone in their lifetime that is osteoporosis-related. So if you are a women over 50, you already have a 50% chance of suffering a fracture due to osteoporosis!

And, osteoporosis is indeed an unseen killer: a broken bone after age fifty can lead to a rapid decline in health and mobility. For example, 24% percent of hip fracture patients age 50 and older die in the year following their fracture.

The good news is that there are a variety of easy lifestyle changes and medical treatments that can stop osteoporosis in its tracks – and protect your bones for decades to come – so you can continue to live an active and mobile life. And the doctors at Visionary Women's Health in the Baltimore area are here to help you.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is the medical term for “porous bones”. It is a disease in which the density and strength of bones are reduced over time. The hormone estrogen protects younger women against bone loss. But as estrogen production decreases, due to age and menopause, a period of rapid bone loss is triggered. The bones become progressively weaker, eventually leading to a fracture in one out of two women over age 50.

(Silent) Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis often does not cause any noticeable symptoms for decades. As the disease progresses it can result in a noticeable loss of height, or a mild to very visible curving of the spine.

But as the vertebrae (spine), hip bone, pelvic bones, and other bones weaken, they can fracture. In cases of fine spinal fractures there may even be no pain. And, many times, while a fall is blamed for a broken bone it is actually the other way around – and it was the bone break which actually caused the fall.

A broken bone due to osteoporosis can mean months of recovery, permanent immobility or mobility limits, and even result in death. So diagnosing osteoporosis and preventing fractures is essential for every woman.

How to Diagnose Osteoporosis: Bone Density Test

A bone mineral density (BMD) test is used to measure bone density at the heel, spine, hip, hand, or wrist. It is a quick and easy non-invasive procedure that is performed fully clothed.

Preventing Osteoporosis

Building strong, dense bones early in life is important. Achieving "peak bone mass" between the ages of 25-30 through diet and exercise helps prepare bones for the inevitable bone density decline of menopause.

Whether you are 25 or 85 it is essential to consume a healthy diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D — the two most important nutrients for bone health. Additionally, it is imperative to engage in weight-bearing activities and muscle-strengthening exercises to build - and to maintain - bone strength and density throughout your lifetime.