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Some Women in Their 50s May Need Osteoporosis Screening
More than half of all postmenopausal women will experience a fracture due to osteoporosis at some time. Osteoporosis causes the bones to become brittle, making those with the disease more prone to fractures. Hip fractures, especially, can lead to chronic pain and disability, decreased independence, and lower quality of life.

Thankfully, you can take action to help prevent this. 

Expanded Screening Guidelines Include Younger Women
In 2010, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force released expanded osteoporosis screening guidelines. The recommendations previously stated that all women ages 65 and older should get regular screenings, also called bone measurement tests. But now, screening is also advised for postmenopausal women younger than age 65 who have a high risk for bone fractures.

Frequent alcohol use, smoking, a low body mass index, and a family history of osteoporosis all increase the risk. The task force noted just how early this elevated risk can begin by offering these examples of women with the same risk as women ages 65 and older: 
  • A 50-year-old woman who has a body mass index of 21 or lower, drinks alcohol daily, smokes, and has parents with a history of fracture
  • A 55-year-old woman with a parental history of fracture
  • A 60-year-old woman who has a body mass index of 21 or lower and drinks alcohol daily
Lifestyle Changes, Medication Can Help Reduce Risk for Some
Bone measurement tests, such as the quick and painless dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan, can predict risk for osteoporosis-related fractures. Studies show that women with a high risk may be able to protect their bone health by getting adequate calcium and vitamin D and performing such weight-bearing exercises as playing tennis, walking, or lifting weights. Taking prescribed medications may also help.

Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at high risk for a bone fracture related to osteoporosis. And women of all ages can take steps to prevent osteoporosis. To read more prevention tips, visit www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/ Osteoporosis/osteoporosis_hoh.asp.

Last reviewed: April 2011

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