Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?

May 5, 2016

Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?

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Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the disease causes nearly 9 million fractures each year, or one fracture every 3 seconds. Bones are living tissues that break down and are replaced constantly. In people with osteoporosis, bone is not being created as fast as it is being broken down. Early stages of osteoporosis often show no symptoms, which is why it is extremely important to know the risk factors and symptoms of osteoporosis.

Risk factors for Osteoporosis

  • Age - After full bone strength and density has been reached, generally by age 30, bone mass begins to decline naturally. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Gender - Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. This may be because women have thinner bones and longer lifespans.
  • Ethnicity - Caucasians and those of Asian descent are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Bone structure - Those with smaller frames tend to have thinner bones which result in a higher risk of osteoporosis because smaller framed people have less bone mass, to begin with.
  • Heredity - If you have a parent or sibling with osteoporosis, you are at higher risk of developing it.
  • Diet - Your diet can affect the development of osteoporosis. People with vitamin D or calcium deficiencies may be at higher risk for osteoporosis.
  • Sedentary lifestyle - Because high impact exercises help build bone mass and strength, people that do not have active lifestyles are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis.

Certain Medications

Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, can inhibit the bone building process. Osteoporosis has also been associated with medications to fight:

  • Seizures
  • Gastric reflux
  • Cancer
  • Transplant rejection

Certain Conditions

There are number of diseases that have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Malnutrition
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Chronic liver disease

Early Warning Signs of Osteoporosis

Because osteoporosis generally doesn’t show symptoms in the early stages, most people don’t know they have it until they are diagnosed after breaking or fracturing a bone. Even if you do not have osteoporosis or bone loss, you should still be leading a bone-healthy lifestyle.

There are a few signs to look for that demonstrates low bone density or high risk of osteoporosis. If you notice one or more of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, you should see a doctor about getting a bone-loss screening.

Fragility-Related Fractures

Occurring before you are diagnosed with bone loss or osteoporosis, these fractures occur in bones from mild to moderate trauma, such as falling from below your standing height. If you have osteoporosis, tripping and falling, or hitting an object that may have caused a bruise in previous years may cause a fracture or break.

If you experience a fragility-related fracture, especially if you are over the age of 50, you should talk to a doctor about getting a bone-loss screening.

Widow’s Hump

In people with osteoporosis, small compression fractures occur in the vertebrae. These fractures can lead to increased spine curvature near the shoulders or a “widow’s hump”. You may notice a loss in height, which may also be attributed to these compression fractures. 

Remember, a healthy nutrient diet, moderate exercise or the appropriate medications can help you maintain bone health into old age to live a happy, fracture-free life!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does osteoporosis play a role in hip injuries?

Osteoporosis is a decrease in bone density and this means your bones, including your hips, can become extra fragile. Those with osteoporosis have a higher chance of injuries resulting in broken bones. Those with osteoporosis can break or fracture bones just by sneezing in some severe cases. If you are at risk of developing osteoporosis, contact your doctor to discuss which treatment options might be most appropriate for you. 

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If my mother has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, is she still able to participate in physical activities or exercise?

Your mother and her doctor should discuss what physical activities she can participate in. It will likely be recommended that she should avoid high-impact sports and activities that twist the spine or require individuals to bend forward at the waist. Common exercises for people with osteoporosis include swimming, yoga, strength training, tai chi, and other endurance types of activities. In addition to regular exercise, diet is also quite important and can help one's bones to remain strong. 

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