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September's Wellness Topic: Women's Health
Informative articles by wellness experts brought to you each month by iCount Wellness.
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Amy Lee, NP
Women's Health

Healthy Bones and Aging
by Amy Lee

A few years ago my mother-in-law slipped and fell on the ice during the winter. It wasn't a bad tumble but it didn't take more than a glance to see that she had broken her wrist. I often wondered if she had been twenty years younger if she might have just needed a band-aid instead of surgery to repair her badly broken wrist. As women age and enter menopause, our bones can lose density and become weaker. These weaker bones make it easier for women to sustain broken bones — sometimes very severe breaks. Let's look at what you can do to keep your bones healthy throughout your life.

What are the risk factors for bone loss with aging?

Once menopause occurs, unless a woman takes an estrogen replacement, her estrogen levels will decline. This causes women to become susceptible to bone loss, called osteopenia (some bone loss), and osteoporosis (significant bone loss). Women of certain ethnicities (Caucasian and Asian) are more prone to bone loss, as are thinner women. Family history is also a factor. In addition, lifestyle choices that contribute to bone loss include smoking, alcohol and caffeine use, a calcium- and vitamin D- deficient diet, and lack of exercise.

So what's a woman to do to protect her bones?

Prevention is the key to healthy bones and it must start at a young age. Lifestyle plays an important role:

  • Weight bearing exercise helps prevent bone loss and aids in bone resorption.
  • A consistent exercise program is important throughout life.
  • It is also important to maintain a healthy weight. Find out your ideal body weight and try to maintain it.
  • Ensure that you get plenty of daily calcium and vitamin D in your diet. The calcium recommendation for women over 50 is 1200 mg/day. Calcium and vitamin D are prevalent in many foods.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake.
Once you reach age 65 if you are low risk — or age 50 if you have risk factors — ask your healthcare provider about getting a bone scan to evaluate for osteopenia and osteoporosis. If you find that you do have either of these conditions, you will need to work out a treatment regimen with your healthcare provider. And continue to do the things that are good for your bones mentioned above — no matter what your age.

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