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Osteoporosis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors & Measures to Prevent

Osteoporosis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors & Measures to Prevent

by MedPlus Team, September 7, 2019

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle (so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture). Osteoporosis-related fractures most usually occur in the hip, wrist or spine.  Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t happen with the loss of old bone.

Osteoporosis affects men and women aged 50 years and over.  Especially, older women who are at menopausal state are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight loss exercises can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.

Causes of Osteoporosis

Losing bone is a natural part of aging, but some people lose bone much faster than normal. This condition can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of broken bones.

Women also lose bone quickly in the first few years after the menopause. According to researches, women are more at risk of osteoporosis than men, particularly if the menopause begins early (before the age of 45) or they’ve had their ovaries removed.

Although, osteoporosis can also affect men, younger women, and children. Many other factors can also raise the risk of developing osteoporosis, including:

1. Using high-dose steroid tablets for more than 3 months.

2. Other pathological conditions such as inflammatory conditions, hormone-related conditions, or malabsorption problems

3. Family history of osteoporosis

4. Long-term use of specific medicines that can affect bone strength or hormone levels, such as anti-estrogen tablets that many women take after breast cancer

5. Having anorexia or bulimia (an eating disorder)

6. A low body mass index (BMI)

7. Lack of physical activity

8. Alcohol and smoking

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

There are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you might have the following signs and symptoms:

1. Back pain (due to fractured or collapsed vertebra)

2. Overtime loss of height

3. A stooped posture

4. Easy bone breakage than expected

Risk Factors Associated with Osteoporosis

Some risk factors are linked to the development of osteoporosis and contribute to an individual’s likelihood of developing the disease. People with this condition have various risk factors, but others who develop the disease have no known risk factors. Certain risk factors cannot be changed, but you can change others.

1. Risk factors you cannot change:

a. Sex: Woman have greater chances of developing osteoporosis, they have less bone tissue and lose bone faster than men because of the changes that happen with menopause.

b. Age: The older you are, the greater your risk of developing osteoporosis. Bones become weaker and thinner as you age.

c. Body size: Small and thin-boned women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

d. Ethnicity: White and Asian women are at greatest risk.

e. Family History: Risk of fractures may be due, in part, to heredity. People whose parents have a history of fractures also seem to have less/reduced bone mass and may be at risk for fractures.

2. Risk factors you can change:

a. Sex hormones: Absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea), low estrogen level (menopause), and low testosterone level in men can result in osteoporosis.

b. Anorexia nervosa: This is an eating disorder increases your risk for osteoporosis due to an irrational fear of weight gain.

c. Calcium and vitamin D intake: A lifetime diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss thus, results in osteoporosis.

d. Medication use: Long-term use of certain medications, such as glucocorticoids and some anticonvulsants can result in loss of bone density and fractures.

e. Lifestyle: Physical inactivity or extended bed rest tends to weaken bones.

f. Cigarette smoking: Smoking is injurious for bones as well as the heart and lungs.

g. Alcohol intake: Overconsumption of alcohol increases the risk of bone loss and fractures.

Prevention of Osteoporosis

From an early age, a combination of a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular physical activity helps to preserve sufficient bone mass and thus prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

1. A Calcium-Rich Diet with Vitamin D:

From childhood and adolescence, calcium and vitamin D intake allows the constitution of bone mass. As they get older, the nutritional needs change: contrary to popular belief, they do not decrease with age and some even increase. It would be a mistake to think that as you get older you have to eat less. On the other hand, it is important to make sure to eat better and to stay physically active every day.

Choose foods rich in calcium (dairy products, calcium mineral waters, etc.) and those that bring in vitamin D (oily fish, egg yolk, butter, etc.). A sufficient intake of calcium, associated with vitamin D, naturally present in the body under the effect of the UVB rays of the sunlight, reinforces the bone mass by fixing on the bones. In the case of vitamin D deficiency, a dietary supplement can be taken.

2. Maintain a Healthy Weight:

Low weight with a low Body Mass Index of less than 19 promotes the occurrence of osteoporosis.

Calculate your BMI – Body Mass Index

Formula: Weight (kgs) divided by height (meters square): Weight in kgs / Height in m2.

3. Stay Physically Activity:

Physical activity is beneficial at any age. In children and adolescents, it plays an important role in the formation of bone mass.

In adulthood and aging, maintaining good muscle mass, improving flexibility and balance are the best ways to avoid weak bones and fractures.

4. Moderate Consumption of Alcohol:

Alcohol is one of the aggravating factors of osteoporosis. It decreases bone mineral density and increases the risk of fracture.

Alcohol can also degrade general health and increase the likelihood of breakage. An expert opinion from Public Health France and the National Cancer Institute proposes for both men and women to limit/avoid the consumption of alcohol.

5. Quit Tobacco:

Tobacco aggravates osteoporosis. There are effective aids to stop smoking.

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