Osteoporosis is a medical condition where the inside of your bones become porous or brittle causing them to be weaker and much more likely to break. Women tend to have less bone mass than men in general and losing bone mass can make the risk of breaking bones much higher. Osteoporosis in women can be caused by menopause or a number of other conditions, particularly when women are not getting enough calcium in their daily diets.
Total bone mass in women typically peaks around the age of 35. Once this happens, you will begin to lose bone mass. Loss of estrogen which typically happens during menopause can cause bone loss to occur much more quickly. The signs of osteoporosis are not always evident in all women. Most women will not experience any symptoms until they have a high level of bone mass loss. Symptoms can include broken bones, a hunched back or lower back pain and many women seem to get shorter or shrink over time due to the bones in the spine collapsing.
Understanding your risk for developing osteoporosis is important. Risk factors include reaching menopause before the age of 48 either naturally or by hysterectomy, not getting enough calcium, not getting enough exercise, a family history of the disease, smoking, years of alcohol abuse and a small body frame. If you have reached menopause, are at risk or have reached the age of 35, you should schedule a bone mass test with your doctor. This is a test that will give your doctor a look at your bones which will help them to determine if your bones are becoming porous or brittle.
Before you reach the age of menopause or before menopause begins, you should be getting up to 1,000 mg of calcium per day. After menopause you should get no less than 1,000 mg per day or 1,500 mg per day if you are not taking hormone replacement therapy. Remember that you should also take vitamin D daily to help your body to absorb the calcium properly. You can get calcium from the foods that you eat and most doctors recommend eating a diet high in calcium as opposed to taking supplements. Nonfat dairy products as well as broccoli, sardines and dried beans offer high levels of calcium per serving. Each cup of nonfat milk or yogurt contains about 300 mg of calcium. 2 cups of broccoli and just 6 or 7 sardines will also give you around 300 mg of calcium. If you are not getting adequate amounts of calcium in your daily diet then your doctor may recommend that you take daily supplements of calcium with vitamin D to help build up your bones.
Your doctor may also recommend that you get regular exercise. Those who are going through menopause may consider weight bearing exercises to help keep their bones healthy. Weight bearing exercises include walking, jogging and other daily activities that will keep you on your feet and moving. Be sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet each day and one that includes at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 mg of vitamin D or taking supplements to help you to reach these goals. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about quitting. Smoking will make osteoporosis much worse. You can also speak with your doctor about estrogen replacement therapy if needed to ensure that your bones remain healthy.