Osteoporosis – are you at risk?

Knowing osteoporosis risk factors can help prevent and treat this chronic condition.

Osteoporosis is a very common, metabolic bone disease that affects over 10 million men and women in the United States, with 18 million additional Americans at risk of developing the disease. Bone is a living tissue and existing bone is being replaced by new bone on a continual basis. Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone and/or the existing bone gets reabsorbed into the body.

Who is at risk of developing Osteoporosis? According to Mayo Clinic risk factors include:

  • Gender – women are more likely to develop this disease than men.
  • Age – as a person ages, their risk increases.
  • Race – those of Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American or Asian descent are at a greater risk.
  • Family history – risk increases as a person ages. Those who have a parent or sibling with osteoporosis or a parent who has experienced a hip fracture are also at a higher risk.
  • Body frame and size – men and women with a small body frame tend to have less bone mass to draw from as they age and are at a higher risk.
  • Hormone levels – the reduction of estrogen during menopause is one of the strongest risk factors associated with this disease. Certain cancer treatments can also drop the levels of estrogen levels in women and testosterone levels in men.
  • Dietary factors – people who have had a lifetime of low calcium intake, suffered from an eating disorder (such as anorexia) or have had gastrointestinal surgery are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
  • Steroids and other medications – long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications can interfere with the bone-building process.
  • Harmful lifestyle choices – those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, consume excessive amounts of alcohol or use tobacco are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) provides the following care and prevention measures for people with osteoporosis:

  • Early diagnosis
  • Decreasing fracture risk with the utilization of prescribed medications
  • Programs that increase exercise and activity
  • Strategies that prevent injury
  • Optimize nutrition and lifestyle barriers

If you are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis or have symptoms associated with this disease, Michigan State University Extension recommends that you consult with your health care provider. The National Osteoporosis Foundation also provides resources and support for those dealing with this disease.

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