Osteoporosis is a condition in which the body’s bones become thin, brittle, and weak often leading to fractures and an increased risk of disability and death. Osteoporosis is five times more common in women than in men and often occurs as women progress through menopause.

The female hormone, estrogen, is protective against bone loss. After menopause, women produce very little estrogen causing rapid bone loss beginning 1 year after the final menstrual period and lasting for about 3 years. It is important to speak with your provider if you are beginning menopause or have any of the following risk factors to help prevent osteoporosis.

Risk factors:

  • Certain medications
  • Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inactivity or immobility
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol (3 or more drinks per day)
  • Low calcium intake
  • Vitamin D insufficiency
  • Excess Vitamin A
  • High caffeine or salt intake

How do I know if I have osteoporosis?

Many women are asymptomatic until they present with a fracture. The most common fracture is a vertebral fracture. Other fractures include hip fractures or wrist fractures.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

A bone mineral density (BMD) test can take up to 10 minutes to determine a woman’s bone density. BMDs should be performed on all women 65 years or older, or on women younger than 65 and past menopause with certain risk factors. The most common test is a DEXA scan. Women with a negative score have thinner bones than the average 30-year-old woman. Women with a positive score have stronger bones. A score between -1 and -2.5 is considered high risk for osteoporosis and a score of -2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis. Treatment is recommended for women who are at high risk or have osteoporosis.

What is the treatment?

There are various medications used to treat osteoporosis to help reduce the risk of fractures. The main focus for women is prevention. Women should focus on their lifestyle, including exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking, to prevent osteoporosis. Exercising for 30 minutes, 3 days a week can increase bone mass before menopause and slow bone loss after menopause. Women should also increase their daily intake of calcium and Vitamin D by eating foods such as spinach, kale, yogurt, milk, cheese, salmon, and orange juice. If women are unable to obtain adequate levels of calcium and Vitamin D in their diet, they should speak with their provider about supplements.

All information is provided by:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists