Osteoporosis is a condition of the bones. With osteoporosis, bones become thinner, very weak and can break easily. A broken bone can have a severe impact on your life - it can cause a lot of pain and disability. It can make it harder to do daily tasks on your own, such as walking. It can also mean time away from work in hospital. Broken bones, because of osteoporosis, are common in the wrist, spine and hip.
Bone is constantly changing; the body removes old bone and new bone is added. Oestrogen plays an important role in building new bone. The decline in oestrogen levels, after the menopause, leaves many post-menopausal women at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Some women are more at risk of developing osteoporosis than others. Risk factors, include:
- A family history of osteoporosis
- A broken bone while an adult
- Surgery to remove both ovaries before natural menopause
- Early menopause
- Insufﬁcient calcium throughout life
- Extended bed rest
- Long-term heavy drinking
- Using certain medicines, such as glucocorticoids or some anticonvulsants, for long periods of time
- Being thin or having a small body frame
If you have any of these risk factors or are concerned about the health of your bones, talk to your healthcare professional.
Exercise and a proper diet can help maintain bone strength or slow its loss. Regular weight bearing exercise (such as walking, running, stair climbing, or using weights to exercise) at least three or four times a week can help keep your bones strong. Strengthening and balance exercises can help you avoid falls, which could cause a broken bone.
You can also preserve bone density by eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D or, if needed, taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. Foods high in calcium include milk and milk products (low-fat ones are probably best).
Sometimes exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes are not enough, and medicines are needed. Medications include bisphosphonates, oestrogen (HRT), and calcitonin. Some of these build up bone density. Others prevent further bone loss.
Talk to your healthcare professional to find out which would be best for you.