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Hormones and healthy bones: What's the link?

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Bone health matters—no bones about it! At SIU Medicine, our team is educating the community to learn more about bone health, including what can affect your bone mineral density and how to protect it.

The bare bones of bone health: 5 quick things to know

  1. Bone mineral density refers to how strong your bone tissue is. The lower your bone mineral density, the weaker your bones.
  2. Most people achieve peak bone mineral density by their late 20s. After this age, the focus is on maintaining bone strength and minimizing bone mineral loss.
  3. Drinking milk, just by itself, may not be good for your bones! Research has found that countries with the highest consumption of dairy products (like the U.S.) also have the highest incidence of bone fractures. And while calcium can support bone health, other nutrients like magnesium and Vitamin D are just as important. You can find all of these nutrients in things like leafy green vegetables, seafood and eggs.
  4. Osteoporosis is a leading chronic health condition affecting both men and women. It happens when the body can't produce enough bone material to make up for the loss of old bone material. The result? Bones become weak, brittle and more likely to break.  Half of all menopausal women will suffer a fracture, a broken bone, in their lifetime.
  5. Risk factors for osteoporosis include: age over 50, female gender, family history, low body weight, menopause, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, consuming too much protein, sodium, caffeine, or alcohol.

The relationship between hormones and bone mineral density

Did you know your hormones play a major role in keeping your bones strong and healthy?

Estrogen in particular has a strong association with bone health, especially for women. Normally, estrogen helps bone tissue form and prevents it from breaking down. As a woman's estrogen levels drop, so does her bone mineral density. This helps explain why menopause (which leads to lowered estrogen levels) is a common risk factor for osteoporosis.

Other causes of reduced estrogen include missed periods due to excessive exercise or extremely low body weight. This can lead to a loss of bone mineral density in young women and teens—and once it's lost, it may never come back.

As for men, lower levels of the hormone testosterone may increase the risk for osteoporosis.

Benefits of a bone density scan

A bone density scan, also called a DEXA scan, is an important piece of technology used by clinical teams at SIU Medicine. Here are three ways a bone density scan may help you:

  1. Osteoporosis often has no signs or symptoms until a bone fracture occurs. A bone density scan can detect early warning signs of osteoporosis and help physicians treat you faster and avoid future fractures, which can be life-threatening.
  2. A bone density scan can also help you understand your risk for fractures and can inspire you and your doctor to make necessary medication and/or lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.
  3. Bone density scans can be used to monitor osteoporosis and guide treatment.

Are you concerned about your bone health?

SIU Medicine attracts some of the area's most experienced clinicians, researchers, and innovators in the field of academic medicine. To find out more about your bone health with our compassionate team, contact SIU Medicine today at 217.545.8000.

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