Strong From The Inside Out: Osteoporosis Prevention in Every Decade
It doesn’t hurt. You can’t feel it.
And by the time you have symptoms, it’s too late to reverse it.
Osteoporosis—a condition that thins and weakens bones, making them more likely to fracture — is thought by many to only affect women who are 70 or older. The truth is, bone loss begins well before then, and osteoporosis prevention should too. “It’s an important part of women’s health, thinking about bone loss after the age of 20,” says Dr. Karin W. Buettner, an OB/GYN in the Short Pump office who is Virginia Women’s Center’s resident expert on osteoporosis. Here’s what you should be doing to reduce your risk.
Osteoporosis prevention in every decade
In your 20s. your bones are as strong as they’ll ever be. Bone mass usually peaks in a woman’s mid-20s, so young women should try to eat a calcium-rich diet and start a lifelong habit of exercise, especially weight training. Maintain a healthy weight, because being underweight is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis.
In your 30s. your bones are already losing calcium. “Bone loss definitely gets accelerated as you’re getting older, and you need to think about protecting your bones,” Dr. Buettner says. Maintain that exercise habit and high-calcium diet. Also, check your multivitamin, Dr. Buettner says, to see if you’re getting enough vitamin D. She recommends 800-1000 IU per day, starting in the 30s. She sees a fair amount of vitamin D deficiency even in Richmond, Virginia, where most people get adequate sun exposure.
In your 40s, Dr. Buettner says, you should begin having a conversation about osteoporosis prevention with your doctor. She reviews women’s medical history and prescription medications to see if they’re at risk. And “I give them homework to see how much calcium they’re getting in their diet daily,” she says. The good news is that most women are getting enough, or close to it—“it’s pretty amazing.” Yogurt and cheese contribute a lot of calcium, as do nuts and greens.
In your 50s, it may already be time to do a bone density test. Menopause is a risk factor for bone loss, and if you have certain medical issues, Dr. Buettner may even recommend getting the test pre-menopause. “It’s pretty amazing how we do actually find significant bone loss before 65,” she says.
In your 60s and beyond, continue with weight-bearing exercise, vitamin D, a calcium-rich diet as well as any recommended medications.
What is a bone density test?
Bone density tests are quick, and the procedure doesn’t hurt at all. At Virginia Women’s Center, we use dual-energy absorptiometry (DXA) to measure your bone strength, vulnerability to fractures and risk for osteoporosis. In the 15-minute test, you lie on a cushioned bed while a mechanical arm scans your lower spine and hips, which are the two areas most likely to break because of osteoporosis. It’s a more accurate test than an ultrasound scan of the heel, Dr. Buettner says, and radiation levels are extremely low—even lower than airport security screening machines. Bone density testing is offered at our Mechanicsville and Short Pump locations.
If you find out that you have a higher risk of osteoporosis, or if you develop osteoporosis, Dr. Buettner and the other VWC providers can help! Treatment recommendations may include dietary changes, exercise and medications. Make an appointment today by going online or calling 804.288.4084.
Dr. Karin Buettner practices at the Short Pump location of Virginia Women’s Center. She’s passionate about helping women of all ages, and emphasizes individualized medical care, by getting to know the unique qualities of her patients. Dr. Buettner takes into account not only the physical changes taking place but the emotional ones, too. If you’d like to make an appointment with Dr. Buettner, you may do so online or by calling 804.288.4084.