Prevention and Wellness

Bone and Joint Health

Below, Premier Health doctors answer frequently asked questions about bone and joint health for women.

Why is bone health important for women?

Dr. Alappatt discusses the importance of women’s bone health. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript

 

Women are at higher risk of breaking bones and developing osteoporosis, which means a weakening of the bones, according to the National Osteoporosis FoundationOff Site Icon (NOF).

It is estimated that about 8 million of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis are women. When women age and reach menopause, the hormone estrogen, which protects bones, quickly decreases, according to the NOF. The decrease causes bone loss.

If women do not get enough calcium to strengthen their bones when they are young, their bones are more likely to become weak as they age. The lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis, and the weakening can lead to broken bones, especially hips, the spine and wrists, according to the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsOff Site Icon (AND).

Talk to your doctor for more information about why bone health is important to women.

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What should younger women be doing now to reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis later in life?

It is very important for younger women to focus on bone health because building strong bones at an early age can help prevent bone weakening later in life, according to the National Osteoporosis FoundationOff Site Icon (NOF).

The NOF suggests keeping bones healthy and strong by:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Consume enough calcium and vitamin D, including food and supplements
  • Do not drink alcohol in excess
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly, focusing on weight-bearing and strength training exercise
  • Have a bone density test (for people over 50)
  • Talk with your physician about your bone health

While exercise and being active are beneficial to bone health, it is important not to overdo it, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Women who exercise too much, who have very strict weight loss diets, and who focus on being very thin rather than fit are putting themselves at risk of health problems, including bone problems, according to the NIH.

Behaviors that put someone at risk for bone loss, according to the NIH, include:

  • Extreme thinness
  • Frequent dieting, including eating very little and a focus on low-calorie foods
  • Ignoring sickness, injury, bad weather and more in order to exercise
  • Intense, frequent exercise
  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Obsessive focus on exercise
  • Rapid weight loss

If you recognize some of these behaviors in yourself, you can choose to eat a more healthy diet that includes enough calories to support your activity level, according to the NIH. It is important to find that balance between food and exercise.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what you can do.

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What is low peak bone mass, and what is the correlation to osteoporosis in young women?

Dr. Alappatt discusses low peak bone mass and how it relates to osteoporosis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript

 

Peak bone mass is the maximum strength and density of bones, which is reached around age 30 in women, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

At the point you reach your peak bone mass, you want it to be as high as possible, to give you the best change of reducing your risk of bone health issues later in life, according to the NIH.

Most peak bone mass, up to 90 percent, is built by age 18 in women, according to the NIH. That early cutoff is why it is so important for women in their teen, then into their 20s, focus on a healthy diet, appropriate exercise and getting enough calcium and vitamin D.

A woman with a low peak bone mass when it stops growing will be at higher risk of developing osteoporosis during menopause, when bone experience a rapid loss of bone mass, according to the NIH. The loss continues after menopause, increasing the risk of osteoporosis even more.

For more information about low peak bone mass, talk with your physician.

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Why is it important for younger women to think about bone health?

When women are younger – in their teens and early 20s – they have a chance to build denser, stronger bones, according to the National Osteoporosis FoundationOff Site Icon (NOF). It’s important that young women take advantage of that opportunity because once they’re older, improving bone health is no longer possible.

Building strong bones while you’re young can help prevent osteoporosis – weakened bones – when you’re older, according to the NOF.

For more information about young women improving bone health, talk with your physician.

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What are some things young women can do to take care of their bones?

Keeping bones strong is something women can do when they’re younger that will improve their health and overall quality of life as they get older.

To keep your bones strong, according to the National Osteoporosis FoundationOff Site Icon (NOF), you can:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Don’t drink alcohol in excess
  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise a healthy amount; don’t over-do it because too much exercise can have a negative effect
  • Have enough calcium and vitamin D daily, between food and supplements
  • Talk to your doctor about bone health

The more effort women put into taking care of their bones when they are younger, the better of they will be when they age.

For more information about preventive steps for bone health, talk with your doctor.

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Anessa Alappatt, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; Jennifer Smail, MD, Pledger Orthopaedic Spine Center and Associates

Content Updated: April 9, 2015

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