Medical News

Osteoporosis in Women: Keeping Your Bones Healthy and Strong

What is osteoporosis?

In osteoporosis, the inside of the bones becomes porous from a loss of calcium (see the picture below). This is called losing bone mass. Over time, this weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break.

Osteoporosis is much more common in women than in men. This is because women have less bone mass than men, tend to live longer and take in less calcium, and need the female hormone estrogen to keep their bones strong. If men live long enough, they are also at risk of getting osteoporosis later in life.

Once total bone mass has peaked—around age 35—all adults start to lose it. In women, the rate of bone loss speeds up after menopause, when estrogen levels fall. Since the ovaries make estrogen, faster bone loss may also occur if both ovaries are removed by surgery.

Normal bone versus bone affected by osteoporosis

What are the signs of osteoporosis?

You may not know you have osteoporosis until you have serious signs. Signs include broken bones, low back pain or a hunched back. You may also get shorter over time because osteoporosis can cause your vertebrae (the bones in your spine) to collapse. These problems tend to occur after a lot of bone calcium has already been lost.

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