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Nearly half of all women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle - so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. When you have osteoporosis, your bones lose density and become more fragile and easier to break. The bones in your hips, wrist and spine are at the highest risk to fracture because of osteoporosis. Approximately 80 percent of osteoporosis patients are women over 50; however, this disease can affect men and women of any age.

Why are women more at risk of developing osteoporosis and experiencing broken bones?

Women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men.

Estrogen, a hormone in women that protects bones, decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which can cause bone loss. This is why the chance of developing osteoporosis increases as women reach menopause.

Now for some good news: While there are uncontrollable factors that may contribute to your risk of developing osteoporosis, there are things that you can do reduce your chances of developing this disease.

Get enough calcium and vitamin D: It’s important to eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D because these nutrients work together to promote healthy bone growth and maintenance. Calcium promotes healthy bones, and vitamin D helps your body effectively absorb calcium.

Stay active: Exercise helps ward off osteoporosis by strengthening your bones, just as it strengthens your muscles. Strong bones are denser and less likely to fracture. Most bone is built up by the time you’re 30. But you can still build up your bone strength and help reduce your risk of osteoporosis at any age.

Quit Smoking: If you smoke, your risk for osteoporosis increases for a number of reasons. First, the chemicals found in cigarettes interfere with the normal functioning of your bone cells. Also, smoking may inhibit proper calcium absorption. And finally, smoking prevents estrogen in women from protecting their bones as it should.

Don’t drink large amounts of alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption inhibits normal bone formation by impacting your body’s calcium supply.

Medications: Certain medications, particularly steroids, can weaken your bones. In most cases, you have to use these medications for a long time and in very high doses for them to become a threat to your bones. That’s not to say that these medications are bad for you - they may be essential to treat your respective condition. Don’t stop any treatment or alter the dosage without first consulting your doctor.

Physical therapy can also help by developing a specific program based on your individual needs to improve your overall bone health, keep your bones healthy, and help you avoid or recover from a fracture. Your physical therapist may teach you:

Specific exercises to build bone or decrease the amount of bone loss

Proper posture

How to improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling

How to adjust your environment to protect your bone health

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