Osteoporosis and Women: Prevention for healthier living

Osteoporosis means porous bones. It is a disease that can lead to an increased risk of fractures. To get a better understanding of the disease, we look at its cause. Due to age, and myriad risk factors, bones become more porous and fragile. As they do, the likelihood of fractures increase. Many patients encounter no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.

This deterioration of the bone causes them to be weak and easily broken. Those with osteoporosis are vulnerable to bone fractures that can cause deformity and significant disability. Although any bone may be fractured, the bones of the spine, hip and wrist are especially prone. More than 40 million people in the United States have or are at high risk for osteoporosis due to low bone mass, according to federal health agencies. Are you at risk? Read on to find out.

Some facts about osteoporosis:

  • 44 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis
  • more common in women than men, 1 of 2 women and 1 of 8 men will be affected by osteoporosis in their lifetime
  • Only 35% of American adults consume the recommended daily allowance of calcium.
  • Osteoporosis costs Americans $17 million dollars annually
  • Osteoporosis is treatable and may be preventable.

Some of the risk factors for osteoporosis:

Age – All of us lose bone density as we age, some lose it faster than others. Age related loss of bone mass parallels the loss of total muscle mass. The amount of bone growth or loss is directly related to the amount of axial loading or the lack of loading to the bones. In other words, your body responds to the stresses you put on it. If you challenge the bones and muscles with exercise, they will respond by producing more bone or muscle to accomodate for the extra work. This alone is a great case in support of routine and regular exercise.

Gender – Of those diagnosed with osteoporosis, about 80% are women. About 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. Women are more suseptable to osteoporosis, especially those who are post menapausal. Post menopausal women lose the production of Estrogen which protects bones by helping to slow the breakdown of bone. Therefore post menopausal women who produce less estrogen tend to lose bone mass.

Family history – research suggests that heredity and genetics play a major role in osteoporosis

Lower body weight – small-boned, thin people tend to have more problems with osteoporosis.

Inactivity –  those who are inactive are at hig risk for osteoporosis. Inactivity puts less stress on the body and therefore the body responds by atrophying. Exercise is a classic stimulus for increasing growth hormone. Growth hormone has positive effects on bone development.

Lack of Calcium and Vitamin D in the diet – Calcium is a vital building block for bone. Vitamin D helps your body use the calcium. Lack of either one of these nutrients due to dietary habits or other medical conditions, increases the risk of osteoporosis.

Excessive protein, caffeine, and sodium can affect the bone strength, and excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption also can adversly affect bone growth.

Medical conditions – there are many medical conditions and medicines that may effect your bone density. Consult your physician to learn if you may be at risk for osteoporosis.

The good news is that osteoporosis is treatable and may be preventable. Knowing your risk factors and understanding what you can do about it are the keys.

Take these steps to help arm yourself against osteoporosis:

  • Consult with your Physician. Find out if you are at risk and what an appropriate plan of action is
  • Consult with your Physical Therapist. Exercise is one of your best options to deter bone loss
  • Contact one of the many organizations devoted to osteoporosis and it’s research. They are great sources of information on osteoporosis
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid overuse of alcohol
  • Get more active

To get more active try these simple exercises:

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Tighten your abdomen and your glutes, bring hands together across from your chest and lift hips off the table.

Lie on your stomach with your head off the edge of the table. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and perform a chin tuck lengthening the back of your neck.

Lie on your back, squeeze your shoulder blades back into the mat. Hold for 8-10 seconds.


Stand with feet hip distance apart, holding on to the counter. Bend your knee and push your leg back focusing the force through your heel activating the glutes.  Maintain erect posture and abdominal stability.

Stand holding on to the counter. Lift your leg out to the side, maintaining erect posture and abdominal stability.

Repeat these exercises 10-15 times for 1-2 sets each. fast walking or a workout on an elliptical machine can also be great exercises to promote bone growth. While these exercises are basic, they provide a good start towards a preventative exercise program. Remember each individual will have a different tolerance for exercise. You should consult a health professional when starting any exercise program. A physical therapist is the ideal person to help you to develop a safe and effective exercise program. Knowing what to do, how much to do, and when to do it is vital to building new bone growth. Consult with a physical therapist and get on the right track to bone health.

Bone is active tissue and is constantly changing. Osteoporosis doesn’t occur overnight. It is a gradual process that can eventually leave you in bad shape. Resistance and weight bearing exercise are great ways to fight osteoporosis. Bone develops and deteriorates based on the demands put on it. Resistance, or weight bearing exercises pull on bone, which stimulates it to grow and gain strength. Proper exercise can significantly effect your bone development and/or slow bone deterioration.

So start early, and be consistent. Do what you can do to prevent osteoporosis and live a healthier life!  Start now!

For further information there are many resources on osteoporosis:

National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education (FORE), and American Bone Health were all used as sources of information for this article. These organizations are dedicated to educating individuals about osteoporosis. For more detailed information on osteoporosis, please visit their web sites.