Aching joints, osteoarthritis, and other musculoskeletal problems affect most of us as we get older, but women over the age of 50 are afflicted with these conditions more than men.
Why is this?
Well, primarily, the biological and physical makeup of women is different from men, and these differences are, no doubt, a contributing factor as to why more women than men need the services of Orthopedic specialists. Listed below are some of the most common conditions affecting older women that lead to them visiting Orthopedic specialists:
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease associated with the breakdown of cartilage, which cushions the ends of bones and prevents them from rubbing up against each other. Osteoarthritis affects women over the age of 50 at a much higher rate than men in this same age group. Recent studies point to lower estrogen levels in women as they get older for bringing on OA because estrogen helps protect cartilage and reduces inflammation. As the estrogen levels drop, so does the protection.
Joints commonly affected by OA are the hip and knee joints. Every year there are over a million hip and knee replacement surgeries performed in the U.S. due to joint damage caused by OA, and women make up around 60% of all these surgeries.
Women are more susceptible to OA due to factors such as:
- Hormonal changes that bring about weight gain
- Obesity, which puts increased stress on the knee and hip joints
- Genetics – OA tends to run in the family and is more commonly inherited by women
There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of getting OA or to delay its onset. Start by maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood sugar, being active, and strengthening your muscles and bones. Also, increase your flexibility and balance by exercising, and be sure to play it safe – use proper technique and avoid high-impact activities which may cause joint damage, since injuries early on can also cause OA later in life.
2. Fractures or Broken Bones
Fractured, or broken, bones is one the top reasons people visit orthopedic specialists, and women more than men, are at a higher risk for broken bones due to osteoporosis, lower bone density, and thinner bones. Osteoporosis is a disease which causes bones to become porous and fragile.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation:
- There are an estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, and women make up 80% of this number.
- Approximately half of all women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
- Nearly 70% of all hip fractures occur in women because of osteoporosis.
The drop in estrogen levels after a woman goes through menopause causes an acceleration of bone loss, making post-menopausal women more prone to bone fractures than men. Broken or fractured bones in women are typically caused by falling, forceful impacts, repetitive stress activities, and sports injuries.
Osteoporosis doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging, though. There are things you can do to treat and even prevent this disease. Healthy lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise, and not smoking can significantly reduce your chances of getting osteoporosis. Having adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D are also important, as well as strength training and weight-bearing exercises to help build strong bones.
3. ACL Injuries
Women are four to six times more likely to suffer a tear or sprain of their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
The ACL is located in the middle of the knee joint and helps provide stability of the knee. It also controls the extension of the knee and forward movement of the shin. It’s believed women are more susceptible to ACL injuries because their wider hips affect the stability of the knee and puts undue stress on the knee joint when landing from a jump or pivoting quickly.
Women over 50 are especially susceptible to ACL injuries because the collagen in tendons and ligaments breaks down with age increasing the risk of injury.
Also, hormonal changes in older women can cause ligaments to weaken, reducing the stability of the knee joint. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your active lifestyle or favorite sport, though. Proper technique, stretching, and strength training exercised can significantly reduce your chances of a knee injury.
Visit with a provider at Coastal Orthopedics to discuss a plan of prevention so you can maintain or improve your overall quality of life. Especially if you are a woman who is under the age of 40. Start taking precautions now against these conditions by visiting an Orthopedic specialist who can devise a plan of prevention for you and reduce your risk of needing joint replacement surgery later in life.
Orthopedic doctors specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders associated with joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscle. Schedule a consultation now so you can begin to live your best life – all the way into old age.