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Staying strong as we age

For women who are going through or have gone through menopause, osteoporosis is a serious concern. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become increasingly more porous and brittle – due to the loss of calcium and other mineral components. If not prevented or left untreated, osteoporosis can cause bone fractures, which usually occur in the hip, spine or wrist.

If you are at risk for osteoporosis—because of family history or because you're Asian, thin or a smoker—you should have a baseline DEXA scan for bone density at age 50. All women should have one around age 65.

Prevention and treatment

Because osteoporosis is difficult to reverse, prevention is the key. To ensure that you are getting enough calcium to build and maintain strong bones, you should eat plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as nonfat milk, low-fat yogurt, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, and leafy green vegetables.

According to a panel convened by the National Institutes of Health, women who are still menstruating, or who are postmenopausal but taking hormone replacement therapy, should get 1,000 mg of calcium each day. This jumps to 1,200 to 1,500 mg per day for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Postmenopausal women not on hormone replacement therapy should get 1,500 mg/day.

Hormone replacement therapy is known to help preserve bone and prevent fractures, but is not generally recommended because the risks are thought to outweigh the benefits. There are however, a variety of new medications that help prevent bone loss and do not increase your risk for breast cancer. Some inhibit cells that break down bone and slow bone loss while others have been shown to increase bone strength and reduce fractures.

Bone density scans

A bone densitometer, a safe and painless X-ray, is the most accurate method for determining bone mass. It is usually performed on women during menopause. Talk to your doctor about scheduling a bone density scan at NCH. Bone density scans are done at several NCH outpatient locations, and the Breast Center.

Orthopedics and joint replacements

Should you have bone loss issues that result in the need for orthopedic surgery, rest assured that, at NCH, we treat a full range of orthopedic conditions from elbow and hip joint pain, knee replacement surgery, back pain, shoulder pain and even thumb joint pain. We have an expert staff that will help you determine the causes of joint and muscle pain, counsel you on hip or knee replacement surgery options and even help you get started on the path to recovery with our excellent rehabilitation staff.

Find out how NCH can help you prevent or treat osteoporosis. Find a specialist now, or call 847.618.4YOU (4968) for a free referral.

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Last modified: 10/01/2013