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Why Osteoporosis is More Common in Women

by Outlook Health
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Statistical studies speak a lot about osteoporosis in women. It’s a fact that one in every three women and one in every 5 men who have crossed her mid-age are susceptible to fractures because of weaker bones. The severe loss of bone results in osteoporosis. Getting a break in the hipbone is as much likely as having a combined risk of uterine, breast, and ovarian cancer. Furthermore, it has been estimated that around 200 million women have been affected by osteoporosis across the globe. Most of them are Indians as they tend to have less bone mineral density than Africans and Caucasians. It occurs every three seconds.

So, it’s definitely true that women are at higher risk of osteoporosis than men. But why so? Let’s find out! However, before straightway answering the question, first know what is osteoporosis, its causes, and its symptoms, and then also learn about ways to reduce osteoporosis.  [2,4]

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone’. It is a skeletal disorder, also referred to as a silent disease as it progresses in one’s life without causing any pain or symptoms. It is the silent, gradual loss of bone minerals including calcium resulting in more loss of bone mass and strength. The degradation of the bone tissue leads to more fragile bones that can easily break or get fractured.  [1, 2, 3]

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can happen due to various reasons including:

  • Early menopause
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Advancing age
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Low bone mineral density
  • Bad lifestyle habits like excessive alcohol consumption and smoking
  • Low body mass index
  • Hypogonadism
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic intake of steroids
  • After effect of Hysterectomy- a uterus removal surgery
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. [2]

Symptoms of Osteoporosis:

The common indications of osteoporosis include:

  • Back pain
  • Recurrent fractures
  • Postural body changes. [4]

Why is Osteoporosis a Prevalent Female Health Concern?

The reasons behind women being more prone to suffering from osteoporosis than men are:

  1. Women have Smaller and Thinner or Lighter Bones. 
    Most adult females have short stature and are smaller than men, they possess lighter bones that are more prone to breakage.
  2. Pregnancy or Breastfeeding in Women Robs Their Bones of Calcium And Vitamin D Minerals.
    During pregnancy or nursing of the child, women must take extra care of their bodies. They must supplement their daily diet with bone minerals: Calcium and Vitamin D as these are taken up by the growing baby to form their healthy bones. Otherwise, they would have temporary bone loss and eventually weaker bones. Thus, the lack of calcium and Vitamin D in the diet of such females is the major contributing factor to their osteoporosis.
  3. Women Tend to Live Longer Than Men.
    On an average, the lifespan of women is almost five years longer than those of men. Although getting to live longer than men, the bad news is that women will experience a weakening of their bones as they grow older. Each year there is a loss of 2-3% bone mass. So, a longer life puts females at more risk of debilitating bone fractures.
  4. At the Onset of Menopause, The Bone-Protecting Hormone Called Estrogen Rapidly Declines.  
    When a woman reaches menopause, she experiences a dramatic drop in her estrogen levels. Oestrogen is a female sex hormone that plays an essential role in keeping the bones strong of both men and women. Thus, bone loss gains momentum in postmenopausal women, and if this loss is not compromised the bones become brittle and weak.

Women are at greater risk of bone loss and osteoporosis caused by a reduced level of estrogen usually if they:

  • are cancer patients
  • have undergone oophorectomy- surgical removal of ovaries
  • are experiencing irregular periods or have started their menses later than normal age
  • have an early onset of menopause.

The two major factors that affect the likeliness of getting osteoporosis include:

  • The Bone Density Before Reaching Menopause. If a woman has more bone mass, she has less chance of developing osteoporosis. Young women having low bone density, as a result of low peak bone mass, are at more risk of getting osteoporosis in later life. Premenopausal women can suffer from osteoporosis either due to prolonged intake of a certain medicine or an underlying medical condition.
  • The Rate at Which Bone Loss Occurs After Reaching Menopause. For some women, bone loss happens more quickly than for others. Such women have more chances of developing osteoporosis.

5. Other causes:

  • Parathyroid hormone and growth hormone imbalances: An elevated level of parathyroid hormone can result in loss of calcium, thus making the bones weaker.
  • Smoking: Smokers tend to have low bone densities, which consequently lead to them having fractures.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Women who are physically inactive for long term, tend to have weaker bones. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Strategies to Reduce Osteoporosis in Women:

There are various risk factors for osteoporosis to develop mostly in women, some of which can be altered to reduce osteoporosis. If a woman is having osteoporosis due to family history, diseases, or aging and menopause then that can’t be changed. However, osteoporosis can be prevented or reduced in the following ways:

  1. Intake of calcium-rich foods such as cheese, milk, almonds, chia seeds, and green leafy vegetables. One must consume calcium and Vitamin D supplements if prescribed by the healthcare practitioner.
  2. Early morning exposure to the sun for half an hour to stimulate more Vitamin D production.
  3. Regular exercises. Women must carry out some muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercises daily so that they remain active and healthy.
  4. No smoking. Women must quit smoking as it can result in less calcium absorption by the body.
  5. Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Long-term alcohol consumption can increase the risk of fracture in both men and women.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight. Women must plan for a diet with the necessary nutrients and calories in check to maintain healthy bones and muscles at their optimal body weight.  [1, 2]

References:

  1. https://www.medicahospitals.in/blog/why-osteoporosis-is-more-common-in-women/
  2. https://www.apollo247.com/blog/article/osteoporosis-causes-and-prevention
  3. https://www.rhcnj.com/blog/why-are-women-more-susceptible-to-osteoporosis
  4. https://www.indushealthplus.com/why-osteoporosis-is-more-common-in-women.html
  5. https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know/

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