Disease Prevention in Women

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Disease prevention in women overview

Screening tests are a basic part of prevention medicine. All screening tests are commonly available through your general doctor. Some specialized tests may be available elsewhere. Take an active role and discuss screening tests with your doctor early in life. The following charts are beneficial (generally simple and safe) screening tests that can help detect diseases and conditions before they become harmful.

Osteoporosis

Comment on this

Osteoporosis is a condition with progressive loss of bone density leading to bone fractures. Estrogen is important in maintaining bone density. When estrogen levels drop after menopause, bone loss accelerates. Thus osteoporosis is most common among postmenopausal women.

Screening tests

Measurement of bone density using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan

DEXA bone density scanning can:

  • detect osteoporosis before fractures occur

  • predict the risk of future bone fractures

  • Although still controversial, some doctors use bone density to monitor effects of osteoporosis treatments

Who to test and how often

The National Osteoporosis Foundation guidelines state that all postmenopausal women below age 65 who have risk factors for osteoporosis or medical conditions associated with osteoporosis and all women aged 65 and older should consider bone density testing.

High risk factors for osteoporosis include:

Benefits of early detection

Osteoporosis produces no symptoms until a bone fracture occurs. Bone fracture in osteoporosis can occur with only a minor fall, blow, or even just a twist of the body that ordinarily would not cause an injury.

Prevention and treatment of osteoporosis can decrease the risk of bone fractures.

Prevention measures include:

  • quitting smoking and curtailing alcohol intake;

  • performing regular weight-bearing exercises, including walking, dancing, gardening and other physical activities, and (supervised) muscle strengthening exercises;

  • getting adequate calcium and vitamin D intake;

  • medications may be taken to prevent osteoporosis. The most effective medications for osteoporosis that are approved by the FDA are anti-resorptive agents, which prevent bone breakdown. Examples include Others include alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), raloxifene (Evista), ibandronate (Boniva), calcitonin (Calcimar), and zoledronate (Reclast); and

  • while hormone therapy containing estrogen has been shown to prevent bone loss, increase bone density, and decrease the risk of fractures, HT has also been associated with health risks. Currently, HT is recommended for women for the treatment of menopausal symptoms only at the lowest effective dose for the short-term.

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Breast Cancer - Prevention Question: In what ways do you try to prevent breast cancer? Do you have regular mammograms?
Disease Prevention in Women - Osteoporosis Prevention Question: What dietary and lifestyle changes have you made to help prevent osteoporosis?
Disease Prevention in Women - Pap Smears Question: How often do you get a Pap smear? Have you ever had abnormal results?
Disease Prevention in Women - Colonoscopy Question: If you are a woman, describe your colonoscopy experience. At what age did you first get a colonoscopy?
Disease Prevention in Women - Blood Pressure Question: How often do you get your blood pressure checked? Do you self-monitor or get it checked by a professional?

STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!