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Breaking the Silence

Why Women Need to be Aware of Osteoporosis Now

When you hear the term "osteoporosis" what you think of? An inevitable part of the aging process? Something to deal with later in life? If so, you should think again. Osteoporosis is every woman's concern because, whatever your age, what you do now will affect to what extent you deal with this disease later. Although there are improving treatments for osteoporosis, early prevention is by far the best medicine.

Osteoporosis, a disease characterized by the weakening of the bones, is called the "silent disease" because it happens slowly over time. Most women - the primary victims of the disease - don't even learn they have osteoporosis until it is in advanced stages and they experience a bone break, typically at the hip, spine, wrist or ankle. In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that as many as eight million American women have osteoporosis - with many more at high risk for developing the disease.

Dr. Carlton Pearse, M.D. and chief of Obstetrics/Gynecology at St. Luke's Hospital, explains. "Far too often, osteoporosis is seen as a disease that women just naturally experience when they get older, something to be treated but not prevented," he says. "Neither assumption is correct." While some bone loss occurs when we grow older, osteoporosis is not the norm. The key is to act early to maintain healthy bones.

Bones are a living function within the body, constantly reforming and remodeling. During the bone remodeling process the body continuously removes old bone and replaces it with new bone. Bone remodeling is impacted by a number of factors including hormones, exercise, and the amount of calcium in the body - the mineral deposit that makes bones hard. When too much bone is removed and/or not enough bone is formed to take its place, bone loss and weakening occurs.

Dr. Pearse encourages women of all ages to take immediate action to prevent osteoporosis and also urges them to teach their children and grandchildren the importance of maintaining healthy bones. Building healthy bones through exercise, diet and avoiding preventable risks such as smoking can have positive long-term affects later in life. The time to start is before you have signs of a problem.

Today, make a commitment to your body. Ask your doctor about risks and warning signs of osteoporosis and take the necessary steps to prevent this disease. Dr. Pearse, along with the National Osteoporosis Foundation, recommend the following prevention measures: To schedule an appointment for bone density testing or other women's health services, call St. Luke's Women's Health Source Line at 314-205-6654.