Osteoporosis risk factors

Age and gender: Osteoporosis increases in prevalence with age, especially after age 50; women are twice as likely to suffer an osteoporosis induced fracture as men.

Hormonal changes: Women begin to lose bone mass at a greatly increased rate immediately after menopause as estrogen production drops off, though any prolonged hormone imbalance can affect bone density; similarly, if a woman’s ovaries are removed, she begins menstruation relatively late or she goes through menopause before age 45, she’ll be at increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Men experience a much more gradual decrease in the male sex hormone, testosterone, and thus lose bone mass at a slower rate.

Insufficient dietary calcium, and limited exposure to sunlight or insufficient vitamin D in your diet.

Insufficient physical activity: Weight bearing exercise is vital to building peak bone mass during adolescence and young adulthood and minimizing bone loss as we age. Regular exercise also improves balance, posture, flexibility and co ordination, which help reduce the risk of falling in the elderly; 30 minutes’ walking a day can help.

Family history: If your ther or sister has or had osteoporosis, your risk is increased.

A thin, small boned build can contribute to risk, especially among women who had anorexia nervosa in their youth.

White or Eurasian ancestry (African Americans are at less risk).

Smoking: As the October ’97 Mayo Clinic Health Letter pointed out, “smoking increases bone loss, perhaps by decreasing the amount of estrogen your body makes and reducing the amount of calium in your intestine. One study showed that postmenopausal women who smoked didn’t gain the usual protection against bone loss from estrogen replacement therapy.”

Caffeine and alcohol: Consistently having more than three cups a day of tea, coffee or cola increases your risk, as do more than two alcoholic beverages a day.

Excess use of certain medications (including cortisone and prednisone, thyroid hormone, anticonvulsants, aluminum containing antacids and some diuretics).

Surgery and other conditions: Surgical procedures, such as gastrectomy, and diseases that involve the digestive system, such as Crohn’s disease, increase risk.