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Brittle Bones:
A Normal Part of Aging for Women
- Fact or Myth?

A common belief among today's young adult female population is that brittle bones are a normal occurrence in older women. However, this could not be further from the truth. The brittle bones that are caused by osteoporosis can affect women as young as 30.

Osteoporosis is a condition that reduces bone density and weakens bones. As a result, fragile bones are more likely to fracture.

Poor diet, lack of exercise, hypothyroidism, smoking and excessive alcohol use can further aggravate the condition.

"For women, bone density begins to decrease around the age of 30 and drops off even more significantly after menopause," says St. Vincent Charity Hospital RN, Debbie Tolich. She adds that it is never too early to take measures to protect your bones.

Simple Steps to Preventing Osteoporosis

The good news is that osteoporosis is preventable when measures are taken at an early age. Our bodies build the most bone during childhood and adolescence before peaking in our 30s.

As individuals become older, bone density loss occurs at a faster rate. By taking the following steps today, individuals can reduce their risk for osteoporosis.

  • Follow a healthy diet that includes adequate sources of calcium and vitamin D for your age. If necessary, talk to your doctor about supplements.
  • To maintain strong bones, adults should have at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises daily. Children should exercise for at least one hour each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Know and discuss your risk factors with your doctor. Follow any recommendations on medication use, BMD testing and physical activities.
  • If you are older, take steps to reduce your risk of falling, such as having regular vision screenings. In your home, improve the lighting and remove any objects that could cause you to trip.

"Osteoporosis poses an enormous health threat because it is a silent disease that does not produce any visible symptoms," says Tolich. "Often, a fracture caused by a fall or bump is the first sign that an individual has osteoporosis."

More than 10 million Americans currently suffer from osteoporosis, and an additional 34 million individuals are at risk for developing the disease. By 2020, at least half of all Americans age 50 and older are expected to be at risk for bone fractures caused by osteoporosis.

"Less than 30 per-cent of individuals who have the disease are actually diagnosed, and the percentage of those who seek treatment is even smaller," Tolich notes.

At St. Vincent Charity Hospital, staff members help patients in assessing their risks for osteoporosis and in taking prevention measures.

"All patients who come to the hospital with a fracture are screened for osteoporosis and educated on measures they can take to improve bone health," says Tolich.

When discussing your risks, some doctors may recommend a DEXA scan to measure bone density and to detect osteoporosis before it occurs. This painless diagnostic procedure is similar to an X-ray, takes only about 15 minutes and is covered by insurance.

"Since osteoporosis silently damages bone, knowing your risk factors and undergoing bone mass density testing are the best ways to find bone loss problems before you break a bone," says Tolich.

St. Vincent Charity Hospital is here to help you protect your bone health. The St. Vincent Charity Hospital Osteoporosis Care Team consists of doctors, nurses, dietitians, physical therapists and pharmacists dedicated to promoting good bone health.

For more information on osteoporosis and prevention, contact St. Vincent Charity Hospital's osteoporosis nurses at 216.363.3353.

Reprinted with permission from St. Vincent Charity Hospital For more information, call 216.363.2676.

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