Am I at Risk for Osteoporosis?

Am I at Risk for Osteoporosis?

There is a long list of risk factors for osteoporosis. Some of the risk factors cannot be changed while others can be modified by nutrition, lifestyle changes and/or medication.

Among the unchangeable risk factors are:

Gender: Four out of five people with osteoporosis are women. Females are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men because they have smaller bones and lower ''peak bone mass'' (a person''s bone mass in young adulthood) than men. Women also lose bone mass faster than men as a result of the loss of estrogen at menopause.

Age: The risk of osteoporosis increases with age as bone loss progresses.

Body type: Slender women with naturally thin bones are at greater risk of osteoporosis. Tall, longer-boned women also are at increased risk.

Race: Though all women are at significant risk for osteoporosis, Caucasian and Asian women are at higher risk than African-American and Hispanic women. Among men, Caucasians are at higher risk than other races.

Family history: To a large degree, osteoporosis is hereditary. People who have a parent with osteoporosis tend to have reduced bone mass themselves and heightened risk for osteoporosis.

These osteoporosis risks factors can be modified:

Sex hormone deficiency: Women naturally lose the sex hormone estrogen during menopause. A younger premenopausal woman may suffer from amenorrhea, a condition in which she lacks normal levels of estrogen and has an irregular menstrual cycle or no periods at all. In men, low testosterone or estrogen levels (yes, men have estrogen too) can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Some drugs used to treat prostate cancer can reduce the levels of these hormones and lead to bone loss.

Deficient diet: A diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. This is especially true if the individual''s diet was deficient in childhood and adolescence when the bones were initially developing. Excessive dieting can also result in reduced bone mass.

Certain medical conditions: A variety of medical conditions can contribute to osteoporosis risk, such as eating disorders, developmental problems, rheumatic diseases such as arthritis, or disorders of the endocrine glands, gastrointestinal tract or blood. Medications: The long-term use of steroids, anti-clotting drugs, some anti-convulsant drugs, immunosuppressant drugs and prostate cancer drugs may reduce bone mass.

Sedentary lifestyle or confinement to bed: Lack of regular exercise or prolonged periods of inactivity, as happens when someone is bed-ridden, can increase the rate of bone loss. Smoking and drinking: Heavy alcohol consumption and tobacco use significantly increase the risk for osteoporosis.
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