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Published on August 21, 2018

arm held by hand showing the bones

Osteoporosis: know your risks, get tested

Osteoporosis is a silent disease where bones gradually become so weak they can break easily. This is a common condition that mainly affects older women.

"Most of us start with thick, strong bones, but as we age our bones become thinner," explains Robert Holness, MD, obstetrician/ gynecologist at Gundersen Tomah Clinic. "We may not consume enough foods with calcium, vitamin D and minerals so our body will take what it needs from the bones."

Post-menopausal women are at greatest risk for osteoporosis. Women may also be at risk if they:

Robert Holness, MD

Robert Holness, MD

  • Are Caucasian or of Asian descent.
  • Have a personal or family history of bone fractures.
  • Have low body weight.
  • Smoke.
  • Use certain medications like prednisone and seizure disorder medications.

"While osteoporosis affects many women, there are steps to decrease your risk," says Dr. Holness. "Before menopause, make sure you get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily in your food plan or in a supplement, and increase your intake to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day after menopause. Having acceptable vitamin D levels and performing weight bearing exercise, such as walking, yoga and tai chi, can help maintain bone thickness and strength."

Dr. Holness and his colleagues at Gundersen suggest all women age 65 and older receive a Dexa scan, otherwise known as a bone density test, to measure bone thickness in their hips, spine and wrists. Anyone who has several risk factors should consider a scan sooner.

For women diagnosed with osteoporosis, medications are available to help stop the bone thinning or even thicken the bones.

Gundersen offers bone density screenings at most of our medical clinics. Talk to your primary care provider to schedule your bone density test at a Gundersen Clinic nearest you.

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