Are you a woman? You are at risk for osteoporosis

By Kristy Bleizeffer Nov 30, 2016

Dr. Anca Voinov says simply being a woman puts you at risk for developing osteoporosis.

Several factors can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis: being older than 50, having a family history or not getting enough calcium or vitamin D in your diet.

But there is one risk factor that trumps all the rest, said Dr. Anca Voinov, a family practice physician at Sage Primary Care.

“The biggest risk factor is simply being female. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 80 percent of those who suffer from osteoporosis are women,” she said.

Below, Dr. Voinov discusses a disease affecting nearly 10 million people in the United States.

WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?

“The word osteoporosis literally means porous bones which puts them at greater risk of fracture or breaks, even with a minor injury,” Voinov said.

It occurs when you lose too much bone mass, make too little bone in your body or a combination of both. In serious cases, a hearty sneeze or a tight hug is enough to break or fracture a bone.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?

Many factors play into your risk of developing osteoporosis, some you can control and some you cannot. If you think you might be at risk, take the International Osteoporosis Foundation’s one-minute osteoporosis risk test. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Being female: 80 percent of osteoporosis sufferers are women. Women are also more naturally susceptible to fractures than men, which is why good bone health is especially important for them.
  • Age: The older you get, the greater the risk. In fact, 55 percent of Americans 50 and older are at risk for osteoporosis, according to the NOF.
  • Family history: Genetics play a large role, particularly if you have siblings or parents with the disease. If your mother or father has suffered a hip fracture, you are at greater risk.
  • Diet: People who don’t get enough calcium or vitamin D in their diets make it tough for your body to develop adequate bone density. Similarly, people who are anorexic or have other eating disorders may have weaker bones.

HOW IS IT PREVENTED?

Like many systems in your body, how you behave when you are younger can have a significant impact on bone health as you age.

“The peak age for bone density is 20, so making healthy lifestyle choices around this time will have the most benefit for preventing osteoporosis,” Voinov said. “All women, no matter what age, should make sure they are getting enough calcium and limiting their alcohol and soda intake to two per week. That includes diet soda.”

Other prevention steps include:

  • Count your calcium. Most women consume less than half the calciumtheyshould be each day. Women aged 19 to 50 should get 1,000 milligrams per day, while women 51 and older should get 1,200 milligrams. Figure 300 milligrams for each serving of calcium-rich food in your diet such as milk, cheese or yogurt. If you aren’t eating three or more servings each day (depending on your age), you may need to supplement your calcium intake.​
  • Stop smoking, or never start. For people who quit, your risk for developing osteoporosis returns to baseline within five years of your last cigarette.
  • Exercise. Physical activities also build stronger and denser bones. NOF recommends two types of exercises: weight-bearing impact exercise and resistance/strengthening exercise. Talk to your provider about finding a program safe for you.
  • Take vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and is just as important in maintaining bone density. But nearly everyone is Vitamin D deficient, especially in northern Wyoming and especially coming off a long winter. Take a vitamin D3 supplement and make sure you get 1,000 International Units per day, Voinov said.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

The only clinical symptom for osteoporosis is a fracture or break of the bone without good reason, Voinov said. If you also have a family history, you should talk to your health care provider about your risk.

He or she may prescribe a mineral density test, which will measure the mineral content in your bones. Osteoporosis can be treated with a variety of medications.

Anca Voinov M.D.

Dr. Voinov is board certified in family medicine. She completed two medical degrees, studying in Romania and the Netherlands. She has completed research in viral culture techniques and was awarded the Biopsychosocial Model and Family-Centered Care Award and the McLaren Family Practice Residency Program’s Employee of the Year Award.  She is accepting patients at Sage Primary Care. Sage is a patient-centered medical home and offers same-day appointments if you call by 8:30 a.m. Call (307) 265-8300.

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