Women’s and men’s health differ in many ways – and your bones are no exception. Differences in women’s skeletons begin in childhood. However, these differences and hormonal and lifestyle factors can lead to health conditions throughout your life. Maintaining bone health is crucial for our quality of life and overall wellbeing – enabling us to exercise and move easily. Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to avert common bone diseases in women.
Bone diseases develop in both men and women as we age. However, women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, osteopenia and osteoporosis. Unfortunately, women are also more likely to develop bone diseases prematurely.
Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis that affects joints such as the hip and knee, leading to stiffness and joint pain. It is more common in women than men over the age of 45.
It is unclear why, but clinicians have speculated that women are more vulnerable as they age because of reduced estrogen and testosterone following menopause.
Inflammatory arthritis (IA) is less common than osteoarthritis and covers conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Read more: Curcumin For Arthritis: Does It Work?
Its main symptoms also include stiffness and pain in the joints and may create swelling and warmth around the affected joints.
Heightened levels of estrogen, which may be caused by obesity, stress and other factors, can trigger immune malfunction (autoimmunity). This means the immune system attacks our body tissues, causing inflammation and pain.
Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a health condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, making them more likely to break. Osteopenia is a ‘midpoint’ between healthy bones and osteoporosis that occurs when bones begin weakening but not enough to cause breaks.
Both affect men and women, but non-Hispanic white women and Asian women are more at risk. Osteoporosis is considered four times more common, and osteopenia is twice as common in senior women compared to men.
Again, reduced estrogen levels after menopause are thought to cause an increased risk in women. Other risk factors included having a hysterectomy and experiencing menopause before 45 (early menopause).
Maintaining bone health
Although bone diseases are more common in older people, they can occur in women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Furthermore, having a low bone mass and density early in life can predispose you to an increased risk of bone disease later.
1. Bone density scan. A bone density scan uses low-dose X-rays to look at your skeleton and assess your risk of osteoporosis. You may choose to have a scan if you’re particularly at-risk. Risk factors include:
- family history of osteoporosis
- being a Caucasian or Asian woman
- being petite and having a low body weight
- taking medications such as steroids for an extended period of time
- heavy alcohol use
2. Exercise. Exercise is crucial for overall mental and physical wellbeing. Weight-bearing activities, including walking and jogging, can slow down the loss of bone. Exercise can also help us improve coordination and balance, preventing falls and therefore fractures. Aim for 30 minutes per day.
3. Improving lifestyle. Habits including smoking and frequent alcohol consumption can impact bone density. Maintaining a healthy weight is particularly important for reducing the risk of arthritis, as excess weight puts extra strain on joints. Overweight women are four times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the knee.
4. Nutrition. To maintain bone mass, ensure you include sufficient calcium and Vitamin D in your diet. Women, including breastfeeding and pregnant women, need 10μg of Vitamin D per day and 700mg of calcium.
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You must not rely on the information on this blog as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or therapist. If you have any specific concerns about your mental or physical health, you should consult your doctor and you should not delay seeking medical advice, or treatment for your mental health, because of the information on this blog.