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Osteoporosis is a common condition affecting 1:2 women and 1:5 men over the age of 50.  Many factors increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis and fractures; some are listed below

Genetic & medical factors:

  • Age:  The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Female sex:  Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men
  • Race:  You’re at the most significant risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent.
  • Family history:  Having a parent or family with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father experienced a hip fracture.
  • Body frame size:  Men and women with small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
  • Hormones: Lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bones.  The reduction of estrogen levels in women at menopause increases bone loss, which can be 5% per year for five years.
    • Men with low testosterone or following treatments for prostate cancer that reduce testosterone accelerate bone loss.
  • Thyroid problems:  Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss.
  • Other glands:  Osteoporosis has also been associated with overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands.

Osteoporosis is more likely with:

  • A diet low in calcium:  A lifelong lack of calcium plays a role in the development of osteoporosis.  Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density and an increased risk of fractures.
  • Eating disorders:  Severely restricting food intake and being underweight weaken bone in both men and women.
  • Gastrointestinal surgery:  Surgery to reduce the size of your stomach or to remove part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium.

Steroids and other treatments:

Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process.  Osteoporosis has also been associated with drugs used to combat or prevent:

  • Seizures
  • Gastric reflux
  • Cancer
  • Transplant rejection

Medical conditions

The risk of osteoporosis is higher in people who have some medical issues, including:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Lupus
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Lifestyle choices

Some bad habits can increase your risk of osteoporosis.  Examples include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle.  People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than those who are more active.  Any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture benefit your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.  Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Tobacco use.  The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clearly understood, but it has been shown that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.