If you’re a woman over age 50, you may be focused on menopause. But this is a time to also think about osteoporosis. This bone disease occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from something as innocent as a sneeze.
While this isn’t one of our specialties at the Women’s Health Medical Group, osteoporosis is an issue that every woman should understand and be cognizant of. With that in mind, here is some helpful information on this bone-weakening disease that affects so many women.
What is osteoporosis?
Your bones are living, growing tissue and they change throughout your life. It’s easy to assume that your bones are solid — after all, how else could they support your body? But while they may seem solid, your bones are actually a honeycomb with holes and spaces. The word osteoporosis actually means “porous bone.” When a person gets osteoporosis, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb of their bones become much larger than they were when the bones were healthy. These larger holes and spaces mean your bones now have less mass; they’ve lost density. As they become less dense they become weaker and more likely to break.
Osteoporosis isn’t rare. Over 54 million Americans have it. Studies point to the fact that one in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
When a broken bone can be more than serious
Breaking a bone is always serious business. But if you break a bone because of osteoporosis it can lead to permanent problems, even death. Osteoporotic bone breaks are most likely in the hip, spine, or waist, but other bones can break, as well. It can lead to chronic pain and weight loss. If a person’s osteoporosis affects the vertebrae, it often leads to that person acquiring a stooped, hunched over posture.
For older women, osteoporosis can really limit mobility — moving about can be too risky. This can lead to isolation and depression. Twenty percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from either complications related to the broken bone itself or from the surgery to repair it. Osteoporosis is the reason many seniors are forced into nursing homes.
Testing bone density
The way to catch osteoporosis early is through bone density testing. If your density is below normal levels, it doesn’t mean you’re on a path to full-on osteoporosis. There are different drug treatments that have proven effective at stopping and even reversing osteoporosis.
Let’s talk about osteoporosis the next time you’re in, especially if you’re approaching your 50th birthday. Call us for an appointment, 817-346-5336.