It turns out that our parents were right: What’s on the inside really does count.

That’s why living a healthy life should be more than just a wistful New Year’s resolution. Keeping the human body running on all cylinders is serious business. It takes discipline, dedication and aware-ness, as well as plenty of good old-fashioned curiosity.

This is especially true for women, who face more than their share of unique health challenges compared to men. To that end, knowledge can be empowering.

That’s why Boca Raton called on specialists from the top hospitals, institutes and college medical centers in South Florida to assemble this special editorial report dedicated to women’s health issues.

 Renowned medical experts from Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Delray Medical Center, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and other notable establishments weigh in on female-specific issues involving everything from bone strength and depression to fertility, sleep disorders and matters of the heart.

Here’s to your health.

SKELETAL STRENGTH

Because women are at high risk for osteoporosis, it’s doubly important that they know their bones.

Make no bones about it: Women have less bone tissue than men. Throw in hormones, and you have the perfect storm for bone loss. So perfect, in fact, that an estimated one in two American women older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. That’s compared to about one in four men, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Why do women bear the brunt of skeletal challenges?

It doesn’t start out that way. Bones engage in a healthy building process through age 20. But women, especially, experience a dramatic decline in bone mass as they age. When menopause hits, bone mass plummets, according to Anele Manfredini, a family practitioner who specializes in women’s health.

Declining estrogen levels at menopause is a leading contributor to the loss of bone strength associated with osteoporosis, says Manfredini, who practices at Holy Cross Hospital’s Dorothy Mangurian Comprehensive Women’s Center in Fort Lauderdale. But the aging process isn’t the only risk factor for women.

Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, being a couch potato, and even taking certain medications—such as prednisone, chemotherapy and tamoxifen, to treat breast cancer—can diminish bone mass. Caucasian women, as well as women with small body frames, also are more likely to have osteoporosis.

Know Your T-Score

Doctors generally recommend that women undergo a bone-mineral density test at age 65. Women at high-er-than-normal risk may need testing earlier. The gold standard testing to diagnose bone health is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DXA, which is painless, noninvasive and only takes 10 to 20 minutes.

One of the most valuable pieces of information to come out of that test is the T-score. This score tells patients if their bones are healthy, on a slippery slope (osteopenia) or weakened to the point of being diagnosed with osteoporosis.

To continue reading our intensive look at women's health, pick up the May/June issue of Boca Raton magazine.