Preventing Osteoporosis: Why Now is the Time to Prioritize Your Bone Health

Mar 01, 2024
Preventing Osteoporosis: Why Now is the Time to Prioritize Your Bone Health
Half of all women in the United States age 50 or older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. To avoid being one of them, start prioritizing your bone health now. Read on to learn how.

You may think only little old ladies need to worry about osteoporosis. And it’s true postmenopausal women are at greatest risk for this condition that causes bones to become brittle and break.

However, prevention begins as early as childhood. The strength of your bones as a child, teen, and young adult directly impacts the strength of your bones as you age. Osteoporosis affects 10 million Americans and causes two million fractures per year. 

But just because it’s pervasive doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Dr. Diana Heard and Nicola Maurer, NP of Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, in Glendale, Arizona, want women to understand the importance of maintaining strong bones. In this month’s blog, they explain how to do that.

Let’s start with the basics.

A silent disease

Osteoporosis means “porous bone” in Greek. From the outside, osteoporotic bone appears normal. Inside, though, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb, In bones with osteoporosis, the holes of the honeycomb are much larger.

Osteoporosis is called a silent disease because there generally are no warning signs. A person might notice they’re getting shorter or that their upper back has begun to slump forward. And, if you do, always contact your Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology provider. 

But weakened bones aren’t painful at first. Often, people don’t discover that they have osteoporosis until they fracture or break a bone. Usually, these breaks are caused by a fall. They can also result from something as minor as a cough or lifting a glass of water.

Breaks caused by osteoporosis most typically occur in the hip, spine, wrist, or forearm.

Osteopenia: an early indicator 

Osteopenia is a decrease in bone mineral density that is below normal but not low enough to qualify as osteoporosis. About 34 million Americans have osteopenia. That's more than half of all postmenopausal women in our country.

Bone loss is measured by a bone density score called a T-score. A T-score is the difference between your bone mineral density and 0, which is the bone mineral density of a healthy young adult. The lower the T-score, the greater the bone loss. 

A bone density scan determines your T-score. 

Bone scans

A bone scan, also called densitometry or a DEXA scan, is a low-radiation X-ray that measures the density of the minerals in your bones. The procedure is quick and painless. Typically, it’s used to measure density in the spine and hip bones. 

Like the Centers for Disease Control, the Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology team recommends DEXA scans for women aged 65 and older and for women 50 to 64 who have certain risk factors.

Who is at greatest risk for osteoporosis?

Bone loss accelerates in the early postmenopausal years but can occur before menopause, especially for women with additional risk factors. 

Additional risk factors include:

  • having a small body frame, since you have less bone mass to draw from as you age
  • a family history, especially if your father or mother broke a hip
  • early menopause (before age 40)
  • taking certain medications, such as steroids, acid blockers, and seizure medications
  • having certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease
  • excessive dieting or having an eating disorder
  • absence of menstrual periods for long periods

Ethnicity and race also play a role. White and Asian women are at the highest risk.

Prevention starts early

Women reach peak bone density roughly between age 25-30. After age 30, they experience gradual bone loss until menopause. During menopause and after, bone density drops dramatically. In the decade after menopause, women can lose 40% of their spongy inner bone and 10% of their hard outer bone.

You want your peak bone density in early adulthood to be as high as possible so you don’t drop too low later.

There are several ways to help keep your bones strong throughout your life.

Let’s break them down.

Follow a bone-healthy diet

Calcium, vitamin D, and protein are essential nutrients for building and maintaining strong bones at every age. 

Your body doesn't produce calcium, so you must get it through your diet. The amount needed is 1,000 to 1,300 mg and varies according to age. 

It’s best to get calcium through food. Some of the best sources are found in:

  • dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurt
  • dark green leafy vegetables, like broccoli and kale
  • sardines and canned salmon
  • calcium-fortified foods and beverages, like fruit juices and milk substitutes

Don’t take calcium supplements without consulting your Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology provider. 

To absorb calcium, your body needs vitamin D. Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, such as canned salmon with bones, egg yolks, and beef liver. You can also get vitamin D from fortified foods and sun exposure. 

The recommended daily dosage is 800–1,000 international units. Your provider may recommend a supplement if your vitamin D level is below that.

As for protein, lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy, quinoa, nuts, and legumes are all excellent sources.

Engage in weight-bearing exercise

Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, or low-impact aerobics stimulate bone tissue production. Exercise also builds muscle mass, which improves posture and balance, making you less prone to tripping and falling. 

Limit alcohol and quit smoking

Alcohol can affect your body’s ability to absorb bone-building nutrients. Smoking reduces the blood supply to the bones, slows bone-cell production, and decreases your body’s ability to absorb calcium.


If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, several medications can help. Most work by reducing the rate at which your bones break down, while others work by accelerating the bone-building process. 

Your Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology provider works with you to determine the best course of treatment. To learn more, schedule a consultation with the experts at Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology. Call 602-298-8977 or request an appointment online today.