Women Veterans Health Care
Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens the bones and may cause them to break easily. There are ways to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Focusing on the following protective factors, even when you're younger, can strengthen your bones and prevent future breaks:
- Not smoking
- Doing regular, weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, or dancing
- Getting enough calcium and vitamin D through eating a nutritious diet and spending regular time outside in the sun
- Making your home safer to prevent falls
It is important to talk with your primary care provider, as many women do not even realize they have the condition until they break a bone or experience issues with their spine.
All women should have a DEXA (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan by age 65 to screen for osteoporosis.
What services does VA provide for osteoporosis?
VA's care teams can help all women Veterans identify and reduce risk factors, diagnose, and treat osteoporosis. Specific services include:
- Experienced care teams such as primary care providers, pharmacists, and specialists (including endocrinologists)
- Medications to treat osteoporosis
- DEXA scans: If you are a woman Veteran who is 65 or older with an average risk for osteoporosis, your VA primary care provider can talk with you about a DEXA scan that tests the density of your bones. The scan is a special type of x-ray that does not require any special preparation, positioning in an enclosed space, or injections. Your care team may recommend a DEXA scan before age 65 if you are at a higher risk for osteoporosis.
- Physical activity and exercise programs: Performing regular weight-bearing exercises can help build and maintain healthy bones. VA offers several physical activity and exercise programs that can help you maintain your overall health.
- VA's MOVE! program provides resources for exercise and healthy eating
- Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise combining slow-flowing movements with breathing, awareness, and visualization. Check with your Women Veteran Program Manager at your local VA medical center to get enrolled in Tai Chi or other exercise programs.
- Smoking cessation resources: Smoking increases your risk for osteoporosis. VA offers several services to help you quit smoking.
- Registered dieticians are available to support you and identify ways to get more vitamins and minerals in your daily diet.
- VA Healthy Teaching Kitchen: Eating more nutrient-dense food (especially calcium) can help you reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. VA offers virtual cooking classes to teach you and your family healthy cooking skills.
- Home Safety Evaluation: VA provides a home safety evaluation service whereby teams review your home environment and consult with you to make your home safer to prevent falls.
How do I access services for osteoporosis at VA?
According to the CDC, osteoporosis is common and affects 20% of women aged 50 and over *, and women Veterans are no exception. If you are concerned about your bone health, talk with your VA primary care provider. They can help you with a plan to strengthen your bones, or give you a referral to get a DEXA scan if you need one. They can also help you identify if there are any medications you're taking or health conditions that you have that could weaken your bones.
The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to women's health
If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also help you with issues such as:
WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.
Where can I find more information, help, and resources on osteoporosis?
- She Wears the Boots Podcast on Osteoporosis: Learn about osteoporosis in women Veterans from Dr. Radhika Narla, VA Endocrinologist. She helps Veterans understand the importance of preventing bone fractures and providing resources to help them strengthen their bones.
- CDC Fall prevention checklist *
- CDC physical activity guidelines *
- Office on Women's Health U.S. Department of Health and Human Services *
* By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
† VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked website.