An orthopedist’s advice to women during Osteoporosis Awareness Month

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In honor of National Osteoporosis Month, HSHS Medical Group and HSHS Holy Family Hospital in Greenville want to remind women that it’s never too late to take care of your bones, especially when osteoporosis is at risk – which is the case for many women.

About 8 million women in the United States have osteoporosis, which means “porous bone.” It occurs when the body loses too much bone material, produces too little new bone, or both. The honeycomb structure of the bone becomes less dense, which means it can break more easily than healthy bone. This often happens unexpectedly because the disease has no outward symptoms. A fall or a simple bump can lead to a fracture of the hip, spine (spinal column), wrist or another bone.

Why women are at high risk

“Older women are most vulnerable to developing osteoporosis,” says John Powell, MD, orthopedic surgeon at HSHS Medical Group. “Their estrogen levels, which help protect bone density, decline after menopause. That’s why women 65 and older are recommended to have bone mineral density tests to see if they already have the disease or are at risk of getting it. In particular, white and Asian women have the highest chance of developing the disease.

Other key factors include a family history of osteoporosis or bone fractures after age 50, as well as the following:

Having early menopause or removing ovaries before menopause.

Not consuming enough calcium or vitamin D, or both, throughout life.

Do not exercise or be on prolonged bed rest.

Smoking.

Taking medications, including arthritis and asthma medications or certain cancer medications, which can decrease bone density.

Have a small frame.

How to prevent osteoporosis or keep it from progressing

You can do a lot to help protect your bones:

Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and stay physically active with weight-bearing activities such as weight training, walking, and stair climbing.

Stop smoking if you smoke and know the risks of alcohol. Both can reduce bone mass.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight can increase the risk of fracture and bone loss.

Work with your doctor to assess your risks and options. Your doctor can offer treatment options to rebuild bone or slow bone loss. Also discuss strategies for avoiding bone-loss side effects from medications you may be taking for other conditions.

Talk to your doctor about ordering a bone density test at HSHS Holy Family Hospital. If you don’t have a doctor, the HSHS Medical Group Patient Advocate can help you find a doctor or primary care provider to help manage your health. Call Kim at 844-520-8897 for help choosing a doctor and arranging your first appointment.

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