Osteoporosis: The Warning Signs
In the United States, at least 10 million people have osteoporosis, and millions more have osteopenia, meaning low bone mass, putting them at increased risk of osteoporosis, as well as fractures, breaks, and more. But who is at risk of osteoporosis?
- Body type: People with smaller frames, thin, or short statured are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is characterized by loss of bone mass and deterioration of the structure of bone tissue. A person who is starting out with smaller bones will naturally have less to lose.
- Calcium consumption: Calcium is the mineral that our skeletal system is primarily composed of. It is therefore logical that people who don’t consume much calcium are unable to properly replenish their bone cells, making them deteriorate much faster than someone who consumes plenty of calcium. Vitamin D helps our bodies process and absorb calcium, so consuming dairy products, many of which contain both calcium and vitamin D, will really do your body good.
- Medications: Some medications can increase the risks of osteoporosis. Over a long period of time, cortisone drugs will deplete calcium, vitamin D, and other bone nutrients, as well as interfering with hormone levels, making bones more likely to deteriorate.
- Family history: While osteoporosis isn’t a genetic condition, having multiple family members stricken by it makes it more likely that you will develop it at some point in the future as well. This is especially true if you have a close relative who developed osteoporosis before age 50. If bad posture, fractures, or loss of height are common in your family, the risk further increases.
- Age: A normal consequence of aging is that bones lose at least some strength as we get older. Thus, age itself is a risk factor for osteoporosis. While osteoporosis is, of course, not inevitable and unavoidable, it is much more common in men over the age of 50, as well as women who have gone through menopause.
- Gender: Women are at increased risk of osteoporosis, due to a number of factors. For one, women are usually smaller than men, meaning they have less bone mass to start out with, making any loss more devastating by comparison. Additionally, the hormonal changes women go through with menopause can accelerate the rate of bone mass loss. Of the 10 million people suffering from osteoporosis, more than 80 percent of them are women.
- Smoking and drinking: Research has shown again and again that among the many negative health effects caused by smoking, one of them is bone loss. Multiple studies have confirmed a positive correlation between being a smoker and suffering bone loss leading to osteoporosis. Excess alcohol consumption also weakens bones, depleting calcium, magnesium, and other vital minerals from bones.
- Eating disorders: When body weight in women drops too low, it causes levels of the hormone estrogen to drop. Anything that lowers estrogen levels will interfere with the production of bone mass.
- Autoimmune disorders: People with autoimmune disorders, such as Crohn’s, Lupus, or arthritis, have osteoporosis at higher rates compared to the rest of the population.