What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. Your bones become so brittle that slight stresses on your body puts you at risk of incurring a fracture if you fall, bend over or cough. Osteoporosis fractures are more likely to occur in the hip, wrist and spine.
Your bone is a living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. When your body does not create new bone to keep up and replace the old bone, Osteoporosis happens.
Men and women of all races are affected by Osteoporosis. However, White and Asian women, especially older women who are past menopause, are at highest risk. A healthy diet together with exercises using weights and medications can help to prevent bone loss and also strengthen bones that are already weak.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
In the early stages there are typically no signs or symptoms of bone loss.
However, once bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may have signs and symptoms that include:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Your bones are in a constant state of renewal – new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you are young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 20s. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it is created.
How likely you are to develop Osteoporosis?
The answer depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
Are There Risk Factors?
There are a number of factors that can increase the likelihood you will develop osteoporosis: your age, race, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions and treatments.
The following information is credited to the Mayo Clinic Staff:
Some risk factors for osteoporosis are out of your control, including:
- Your sex.Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
- The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
- You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent.
- Family history.Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father experienced a hip fracture.
- Body frame size.Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies. Examples include:
- Sex hormones.Lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bone. The reduction of estrogens levels at menopause is one of the strongest risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Women may also experience a drop in estrogens during certain cancer treatments. Men experience a gradual reduction in testosterone levels as they age. And some treatments for prostate cancer reduce testosterone levels in men.
- Thyroid problems.Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur if your thyroid is overactive or if you take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid.
- Other glands.Osteoporosis has also been associated with overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands.
- Low calcium intake.A lifelong lack of calcium plays a major role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
- Eating disorders.People who have anorexia are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Low food intake can reduce the number of calories and amount of protein and calcium ingested. In women, anorexia can stop menstruation, leading to weaker bones. In men, anorexia lowers the amount of sex hormones in the body and can weaken bone.
- Gastrointestinal surgery.A reduction in the size of your stomach or a bypass or removal of part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium.
Steroids and other medications
Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process. Osteoporosis has also been associated with medications used to combat or prevent:
- Gastric reflux
- Transplant rejection
- Sedentary lifestyle.People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active. Any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture are beneficial for your bones, but walking, running; jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis.
- Tobacco use.The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clearly understood, but it has been shown that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.