What Makes Women More Susceptible to Osteoporosis?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and of those, a staggering 80% are women. Why are women at a greater risk of osteoporosis compared to men? There are several possible reasons. 

Your bones are different 

Women tend to be smaller in frame than men, and women’s bones tend to be smaller, less dense, and thinner than men’s bones. In fact, the word “osteoporosis” means porous bones.

As osteoporosis develops, your bones lose mass and density — they literally become lighter and more fragile. The majority of people who have osteoporosis don’t know it until they break a bone. For women, the risk of a bone fracture due to osteoporosis is greater than the risk of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined. 

Menopause affects your bones

Estrogen, the so-called female hormone, protects your bones to some degree. After menopause, your body produces less estrogen, and you lose that protection.

Low bone mass is one of the major risk factors of osteoporosis, and roughly half of women over the age of 50 have low bone mass. 

There are two important factors affecting your risk of osteoporosis: 

  1. How much bone mass you have when you reach menopause, with greater bone density lowering your risk
  2. How quickly you lose bone mass after menopause, with faster loss giving you a greater risk

Some deficiencies increase your risk 

Both calcium and vitamin D are important tools in reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis. Calcium is particularly when you’re young. Women build bone mass until about the age of 18 and having enough calcium during that time is critical. 

Calcium remains important, too. After the age of 18, if you don’t consume enough dietary calcium, your body takes what it needs from your bones. 

Vitamin D is also important, because it allows your body to more efficiently absorb calcium. Your body makes vitamin D when you’re exposed to sunlight, and it’s also present in some foods such as fatty fish. There are many factors that impact how much time you need to spend in the sun to make enough vitamin D, but experts generally recommend 10-15 minutes per day with your hands, arms, and face exposed. 

Both calcium and vitamin D are available as supplements. It’s always a good idea to discuss whether you need supplements with your healthcare provider. 

Race and ethnicity change your risk

About 20% of white women and Asian American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis, while 5% of African American women of the same age have it. About 10% of Latin American women have osteoporosis.

Some of the differences could be due to lack of screening, but also, some groups of people tend to have more individuals who are lactose intolerant, which can make getting enough calcium difficult. 

Women tend to live longer

Regardless of sex, your chances of developing osteoporosis increase with age. The fact that women tend to live longer than men is another reason they have a greater risk. 

Men may be underdiagnosed

There’s also a possibility that more men have osteoporosis than experts realize. Because so many more women than men are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s possible that clinicians and healthcare providers think of it as a disease that primarily affects women. As a result, men may not be screened as often. 

If you believe you may be at risk for osteoporosis, book an appointment at Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey. Our providers are experienced in screening for bone loss and have a deep understanding of the risk factors. You can request an appointment on our website at your convenience, or give us a call during our regular business hours and we’ll be happy to help you schedule.

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