Osteoporosis is a serious condition that affects the bones. Here, Marla Ahlgrimm, a women’s health advocate and pioneer in the field of hormone replacement therapy, answers common questions about this bone-weakening disease.
Q: What is osteoporosis?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Osteoporosis, a disease that affects mostly women over 50, is the weakening of bones to a point where even minor injuries may cause fractures. Without proper preemptive care, osteoporosis can cause bones to become brittle enough to break at even the slightest jolt – even from sneezing or coughing too hard. It’s particularly of a concern to women, as post-menopausal women can lose 20% of their bone mass in less than a decade. There are over 10 million people in the United States alone living with osteoporosis. Four out of five of these are women.
Q: How does bone formation change as we age?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Bones are living parts of the body which, like most, experience the greatest growth when we are young. Throughout our early- to mid-adulthood, our bones are in a constant state of loss and regrowth. The older we get, the slower the bone regenerates.
Q: Can I prevent osteoporosis?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Osteoporosis prevention actually begins in childhood, when bones are still forming a solid foundation. However, adults can minimize bone loss through a proper diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, exercise, and keeping adult indulgences (tobacco and alcohol) to a minimum.
Q: Why are women more susceptible to bone loss than men?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Women tend to lose bone at a faster rate than men for a couple of reasons. First, women’s bones, on average, are thinner and smaller than their same-size male counterparts. Women also experience a sudden and sharp loss of estrogen, a hormone that works to protect bones, during menopause. Women of European and Asian descent are most at-risk for osteoporosis.