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Premenopausal Osteoporosis

What Women Are at Risk for Premenopausal Osteoporosis?

Important risk factors for premenopausal osteoporosis include:

  • a family history of osteoporosis and/or fractures
  • a history of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • a history of other diseases, including kidney disease, celiac disease, thyroid disease, and connective tissue disorders
  • a temporary loss of monthly periods for more than 12 months (except during pregnancy)
  • long-term lack of exercise or overtraining
  • long-term smoking
  • low calcium intake
  • use of certain drugs, including steroids, anticonvulsants, some cancer chemotherapies, and long-term use of the blood thinner Heparin.
  • weighing less than 127 pounds

While you can control some risk factors, some you can't change. For example, you can't change your family history. Or you may develop cancer and need chemotherapy to treat it.

How Can the Risk of Premenopausal Osteoporosis Be Reduced?

Since there are some risk factors you can't change, you need to focus on what you can change. You can adopt a lifestyle that promotes good bone health by following these steps:

  • Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. If you can't get enough of these nutrients in the foods you eat, talk to your health care provider to see if supplements are right for you.
  • Get regular exercise. You'll need a combination of weight-bearing exercise and resistance training. But watch out for overtraining, which may increase the risk of osteoporosis caused by reduced estrogen production.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Take osteoporosis medications, if needed.

Are There Ways to Screen for Premenopausal Osteoporosis?

A diagnosis of osteoporosis is not based on bone density testing alone. A key sign is low bone density accompanied by fractures.

If you have key risk factors for premenopausal osteoporosis, bone density testing may help you identify bone loss early. Then you can take steps to help preserve your bone mass. Ask your health care provider if you should be screened if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • you have a history of long-term use of steroid drugs such as prednisone
  • you have one of the diseases associated with bone loss, including thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis
  • you've experienced temporary or permanent early menopause

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