Do you know which condition affects 10 million Americans, with 80% of them being women? It’s osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to become brittle and weak, leaving you vulnerable to fractures.
May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, and the ideal time to learn about how best to support your bone health.
As an OB/GYN who wants to support every aspect of a woman’s health, Dr. Kevin Hooker is always happy to answer questions about conditions like endometriosis, routine preventive care like Pap smears, and all health issues that impact women — like osteoporosis.
Why bone health matters
Bone is live tissue that’s constantly reproducing. To make way for newer, stronger bone cells, old tissue dies and fades away. This isn’t a problem when you’re a child or a younger adult, but when you reach menopause, estrogen production plummets and you lose bone faster than you can replace it. Why? Because estrogen stimulates the activity of osteoblasts, which are the cells that create new bone.
About 20% of a woman’s bone loss can happen during and after menopause, meaning one in 10 women over 60 develop osteoporosis, and half of the postmenopausal women live with the condition and a high fracture risk. Unfortunately, women who endure bone breaks experience both lower quality of life and higher mortality.
7 tips for healthy bones
There are quite a few things you can do to keep your bones in tip-top shape, and here are our favorites:
1. Up your calcium intake
Starting at age 50, the recommended daily amount of calcium for women shifts from 1,000 milligrams per day to 1,200. Excellent calcium sources to incorporate into your diet include dark leafy greens, canned fish with bones such as salmon and sardines, low-fat dairy foods, and soy products, like tofu.
You can also choose cereals and juices fortified with calcium or take a supplement.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D
Vitamin D holds a dual benefit: It boosts bone health and helps you absorb calcium better. The sun provides vitamin D, but typically not enough, especially if you often wear sunscreen when outside as you should.
Food sources include cod liver oil, salmon, trout, fortified milk, and cereals. Most women should also take a supplement, and many calcium supplements contain vitamin D. You should aim to get 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily, but the recommended amount increases to 800 after age 70.
3. Keep moving
Weight-bearing exercise is critical for bone health. You should combine strength training with exercises like running, walking, or using the stair climber at the gym.
4. Steer clear of tobacco
If you don’t smoke, good, but if you do, quit. Smoking limits blood flow that’s necessary for healthy bones, negatively affects calcium absorption, and slows down the production of osteoblasts.
5. Limit alcohol use
If you drink, don’t drink more than one drink per day, as higher consumption is associated with weakening your bones and lowering bone density.
6. Talk to your doctor about a DEXA scan
A DEXA scan is a simple imaging test that evaluates your bone health, so you and Dr. Hooker can get an idea of whether you need to get treatment for osteoporosis, including oral or intravenous medication. It also reveals whether you have osteopenia, which is the precursor to osteoporosis.
7. Make a bone health plan with your doctor
Once you and Dr. Hooker have discussed your bone health and determined your bone loss, you can develop a prevention or treatment plan together, depending on his findings.
Get ahead of osteoporosis as much as possible, and follow the steps here to keep your bones strong and healthy.
Call the Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care office at 928-683-1667 if you’d like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Hooker or request one online.