Osteoporosis occurs when your body’s creation of new bone does not keep up with the loss of old bone, causing bones to become weak and brittle. Osteoporosis can make a fall, or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing cause a fracture. These fractures are most likely to occur in the hip, wrist, or spine.
While osteoporosis affects men and women of all races, white and Asian women, especially those past menopause, are at the highest risk. Medications, a healthy diet, and weight-bearing exercises can help prevent bone loss and strengthen already weak bones.
There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of bone loss.
Once bones have been weakened, the following symptoms can occur:
- Back pain caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height or a stooped posture over time
- A bone that breaks much more easily than expected
Bones are in a constant state of building up and breaking down. When you are young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone. But, after your early 20s, this process slows down. Most people reach their peak bone mass at age 30. After 30, bone mass is lost faster than it is created.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partially on how much bone mass you obtained in your younger years. Peak bone mass is somewhat inherited and varies by ethnic group.
Risk factors also include:
- Your sex: women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis
- Age: the older you are, the greater your risk
- Race: white and Asian people are at greater risk
- Family history: having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at higher risk, especially if your mother or father had a fractured hip
- Body frame size: smaller body frames tend to have a higher risk because they have less bone mass to draw on as they age
- Sex hormones levels: lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bone. The reduction of estrogen levels in menopause is one of the most substantial risk factors for osteoporosis. Treatments for breast cancer that reduce estrogen levels in women are likely to increase bone loss. Men have a gradual reduction in testosterone levels as they age. Treatments for prostate cancer that reduce testosterone levels in men can accelerate bone loss.
- Hormones: overactive thyroid, parathyroid, or adrenal glands
- Low calcium intake: a lifelong lack of adequate calcium
- Eating disorders: severely restricted diets and being underweight
- Gastrointestinal surgery: reducing the size of your stomach or intestines limits the surface area that can absorb calcium and other nutrients
- Steroid use: long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications interferes with bone-rebuilding
- Medications for the treatment of the following: cancer, seizure, gastric reflux, transplant rejection
- Certain medical conditions: celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney or liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, cancer, multiple myeloma
- Excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor
- Excess tobacco use is a risk factor
- Sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for osteoporosis
If you have symptoms of osteoporosis, your primary care provider will order a diagnostic test. If you do have osteoporosis, your provider will prescribe the right medication or treatment and discuss lifestyle habits to protect your bones now and in the future. Call Primary Care at Catawba Valley Healthcare today at (828) 695-5900.