Women around the world may be living longer, but their quality of life will be seriously jeopardized if they don’t take steps now to protect their bone health, according to a new report by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF).
On Sunday, October 20, the IOF and over 200 other health organizations are marking World Osteoporosis Day by spreading the word about osteoporosis prevention.
Osteoporosis is caused by a decline in mineral bone density, which makes bones weaker over time and more likely to fracture. Although women of any age may be at risk, postmenopausal women are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis because they are more likely to experience rapid bone loss.
About 200 million women worldwide suffer from osteoporosis and about one in three over age 50 will suffer a fracture due to it. In the U.S. alone, the disease is responsible for 1.5 million fractures annually at a cost of $14 billion.
“Osteoporosis is a serious threat to women’s health,” says John A. Kanis, President of the IOF. “Yet too many women are unaware of their increased risk after menopause and fail to take preventive measures.”
In women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in the hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, heart attack or breast cancer. A woman who suffers one fracture is at double the risk of a second fracture.
“In postmenopausal women, a broken wrist or a spinal fracture is often the harbinger of more fractures to come and should be taken as a warning that testing and preventive treatment is needed. Given that 20% of those who suffer a hip fracture die within one year, it is not only unacceptable but unjust not to take action to change this,” said Cyrus Cooper, Chair, IOF Committee of Scientific Advisors.
The IOF recommends five strategies to help maintain bone and muscle strength:
- Exercise 30 to 40 minutes, three to four times per week, and ensure a mix of resistance training and weight-bearing exercise.
- Eat a bone-healthy diet that includes enough calcium and protein. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D too – through sunlight, diet, or supplements.
- Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol and maintain a healthy body weight. Women who are underweight are at higher risk of osteoporosis.
- Find out if you have personal factors that increase your risk of osteoporosis, such as early menopause or rheumatoid arthritis. A one-minute online risk test is available on the IOF website at http://www.iofbonehealth.org
- Menopause is a critical time to get your doctor to assess your bone health. Ask for a fracture risk assessment and a bone mineral density test.
“Although the earlier prevention begins the better, when a woman reaches menopause she must not delay any longer. Menopause is the critical time to take preventive measures against bone loss and muscle weakness that can lead to osteoporosis, falls and fractures,” said Bess Dawson Hughes, Director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.
Observed annually on October 20, World Osteoporosis Day is led by IOF and dedicated to raising global awareness of osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal diseases.