As the population ages, experts expect the number of women with bone-thinning osteoporosis to surge. The most vulnerable time for women is after menopause.
“We usually recommend right around the time of menopause, perhaps about 50 years old, that women get a baseline bone density. If it’s fine at that time then women should probably repeat it in about two years and make sure if they’re not going to be on any hormone replacement, that they’re not having a rapid decline in their bone density,” says Dr. Fletcher Reynolds, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Osteoporosis can go under the radar for years. People don’t feel their bones weakening, but may feel the effects or notice what it’s done to their body.
“There’s no pain associated with osteoporosis unless there’s a fracture. The classic example of osteoporosis is kind of the ‘humpback’ elderly women used to get. Those are from compression fractures from the spine that cause the spine to curve,” says Dr. Reynolds.
While hormones impact the body’s ability to absorb calcium, there are other risk factors. Including rheumatoid arthritis, malabsorption disorders, like celiac or Crohn's disease and certain medications. With that said, some people just don’t get it.
“Well I think it’s because how active I am at the gym,” says Star Cole, who watches her bone health.
At 75 years old, Cole’s bones are still going strong. She practices what experts say is a top form of prevention: exercise.
“I come six days a week, I do Zumba four days a week, and I swim for two. So I do a variety of things- I do it for my bones, got to keep them strong,” says Cole.
The basics of osteoporosis are to monitor bone density, be aware of risk factors and ‘exercise’ preventive measures- to keep you in the best bone health.