Thirty-one year old Heidi Gerstein is like many young women today. Between working full-time as an attorney and raising two small children, she has little time in her busy schedule for exercise or proper nutrition.
“Broken bones and hip fractures are things that happen to older women,” Heidi says about the possibility of developing osteoporosis. “I have enough going on in my life right now then to worry about something that may happen when I get older.”
Even though Heidi is healthy now, she joins an increasing number of young women who may be at risk for osteoporosis. Continuing to ignore measures that can prevent this disease could soon put her with the 21 million American women who are afflicted with this disease.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bones gradually become fragile and break due to a loss in bone density. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a fracture occurs.
Causes of the Disease
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 1.3 million fractures each year are attributed to osteoporosis. Bones in the spine, wrist and hip are those most vulnerable to fracture. These fractures almost always require long-term hospitalization and/or major surgery.
Other problems people with osteoporosis face are permanent disability, loss of height, deformity and even death. Current National Osteoporosis Foundation statistics indicate that one in two women over the age of 50 will develop some type of osteoporosis-related fracture.
Whether or not someone develops osteoporosis is partly due to genetics which determines peak bone density. Bone density builds steadily during childhood, peaking during teenage years, then leveling off and declining as we age.
Until age 35 or so, most people can store calcium (which helps bones grow, giving them firmness and rigidity) effectively. Osteoporosis seems to strike many post-menopausal women because of their body’s decline in estrogen production. This hormone (which is primarily responsible for the development of secondary female sex characteristics) also appears to be necessary for bone calcium retention.