OSTEOPOROSIS CAN BEGIN IN COLLEGEBy
Osteoporosis is most often thought of as an illness for older, menopausal women; and this is certainly when it is most often discovered. It can, however, be an illness that comes to fruition after a life time of dieting and strict attempts at weight control.
There are many more young women who are athletic, as compared to past generations; which is a good thing. As athletic scholarships to colleges have become available to young women, the growth of women’s sports and numbers of female athletes have grown exponentially in the past 20 or so years. While this has led to more opportunities for young women, there is a potential medical problem developing called the Female Athlete Triad. This is a condition recognized by the sports medicine community that involves diet restriction, amenorrhea (lack of menses); potentially resulting in osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Currently, there is a push to do a better job by athletic departments, of screening and educating women athletes regarding diet and nutrition.
This lack of bone density is a problem not only because of potential fractures at a young age, but also the impact on the future older skeletal system. The bone density acquired by age 30, is often the bone density sustained through the remainder of adulthood until menopause. So if you arrive at menopause with osteoporosis, your chance of a hip or back fracture is much higher as your bones are surely to become more osteoporotic.
You may wonder why these young women have inadequate bone density at their age, especially since they are athletes. Many people cannot tolerate, or cannot adequately digest milk. Additionally, eating disorders among High School and College age women are very common; and body image can become overly important even for women athletes. Milk is often avoided due to the caloric content, which robs young women of a calcium dense source. The rigors of varsity sports are sometimes not adequately balanced by healthy nutrition, especially if not supported by coaching staff.
We women often don’t become concerned with these issues until we are post menopausal, and realizing a fall may be much more serious than the embarrassment alone.
It is important that we educate and become good role models to our daughters, granddaughters, nieces and others.
Talk to the young women in your life that calcium is important, and necessary for strong bones; and best obtained through dietary sources.
Support young women athletes you know and encourage them to be comfortable with their bodies. Encourage them to work to improve strength and stamina in their sport; and not to focus on being slender.
We all want to look and feel good, but there are too many mixed messages in today’s multimedia world. It can be difficult for young people to sort it all out, and keep a healthy reality in mind.