How Does Osteoporosis Progress?


How Does Osteoporosis Progress?

Osteoporosis develops silently for years before producing symptoms such as back pain, loss of height or stooped posture caused by the collapse of a vertebra. Often a woman''s first sign of osteoporosis is a sudden fracture, which can be caused by a minor fall or even normal stresses, such as bending over to pick up something. Though it is the culmination of a prolonged loss of bone mass associated with aging, osteoporosis is not considered to be a natural result of the aging process.

Bone growth reaches its peak when men and women are their early 20s. Peak bone mass is determined by genetic factors - such as genes for slender or thicker bones - and external or lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise. Experts believe genetic factors may contribute 50 to 90 percent of bone mass, while external factors account for 10 to 50 percent. But while genetics is the more important factor, diet can be the deciding factor in causing or preventing osteoporosis.

A major cause of osteoporosis is poor bone growth due to inadequate nutrition during childhood and adolescence, resulting in a low peak bone mass and thus less bone to lose when natural bone loss begins. People who start out with greater peak bone mass are less likely to develop osteoporosis. After achieving its peak, bone mass may remain stable in the 20s, 30s and into the 40s or may begin to decrease gradually because of lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet or inactivity.

Both men and women begin losing bone mass naturally in midlife as sex hormones diminish and the bone formation process slows while the breakdown of bones continues. This results in a net loss of bone mass. Women lose bone rapidly in the first 4 to 8 years after the onset of menopause, which starts between ages 45 and 55. Men''s bone loss is initially more gradual, but by age 65, men and women lose bone tissue at the same rate.
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