Osteoporosis is a condition that turns bones brittle, making them prone to fractures that greatly affect a person’s ability to move and their quality of life. Along with low back pain, it is one of the most prevalent rheumatic musculoskeletal diseases in the world. It is estimated that osteoporosis causes close to nine million fractures each year — that’s one fracture every three seconds. Risk factors vary for each person based on heredity, sex, and lifestyle but here are ten that might be putting you at risk for osteoporosis.
#1 – Increasing Age
Not much we can do about this; or is there? There are some creatures that do not age, so why do we? There are many theories that attempt to explain the aging process in humans and one of the most popular is the “wear and tear” theory pioneered by Dr. August Weismann in 1882. As time passes, our bodies’ cells and tissues “wear out”, which leads to a decrease or loss in their function – the same can be applied to our bones. We readily lose calcium as we age, the nutrient that keeps our bones healthy and strong. This causes bone to weaken, making them prone to damage that wouldn’t have otherwise happened to a much younger person.
#2 – Menopause
Women going through menopause or have been through it are at great risk for osteoporosis. Menopause occurs as a woman’s period of fertility ends, causing a gradual fluctuation of hormones until the ovaries stop ovulating and producing an egg each month to be fertilized. One of these hormones is estrogen, which plays a big role in bone remodeling. In the absence of normal levels of estrogen, the body increases bone resorption (breakdown and absorption) without an increase in bone cell production – basically bone loss > bone production. This is why studies have discovered that menopausal women have greater bone mineral density (BMD) loss (the hallmark characteristic for osteoporosis) and risk for bone fractures.
#3 – Family History
Genetics will always play a big role in a person’s health because it serves as the building blocks upon which our body develops. With these in mind, we become more at risk for specific health conditions if the genes we receive from our parents are coded for low BMD. A person with a BMD with a T-score less than 2.5 can be definitively diagnosed with osteoporosis.
#4 – Sedentary Lifestyle
It is no surprise that one of the best ways to keep healthy and fit is through exercise. Moderate physical activity for at least three times a week is the recommended amount of exercise for adults and promotes cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health. A study on sedentary behavior (SB) by the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survery (NHANES) discovered that SB is a risk factor for osteoporosis and that moderate to vigorous physical activity has a protective effect against it.
#5 – Thyroid Gland Problems
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ found at the base of the anterior neck, responsible for the regulation and metabolism of calcium in the body. When the thyroid ceases to function normally, a decrease in serum levels of calcium in the body arises. This leads to an imbalance between bone loss and bone development, seen in women with menopause.
#6 – Pituitary And Adrenal Gland Problems
When a person has both pituitary and adrenal gland problems, they are at risk for osteoporosis. This is why people affected by Cushing’s syndrome, characterized by overactivity of the pituitary and adrenal glands, have a more pronounced clinical osteoporosis. According to a study on osteoporotic fractures and Cushing’s syndrome, an excess in cortisol in the body (a naturally-occurring steroid produced by the adrenal glands) can cause drastic BMD loss contributing to fracture occurrence.
#7 – Poor Calcium Intake
This risk factor is a no-brainer – dietary intake of calcium plays a large factor in bone health. The recommended calcium intake for adults is between 1,000 to 1,300 mg per day. Food with high bioavailability of calcium is obviously dairy, with non-dairy sources being leafy green vegetables like cabbage and broccoli (except spinach, whose bioavailability is poor). Without enough calcium intake, bones become weak and brittle.
#8 – Alcohol Consumption
Increased alcohol consumption not only damages your liver but also your bones. Alcohol affects the thyroid and growth hormones. This not only affects the growth and development of bones but also the ability of bone to repair itself in times of damage. In women, alcohol intake also affects estrogen levels in the blood by damaging their receptors. Low estrogen equals poor bone health.
#9 – Smoking
Smoking, specifically tobacco, increases a person’s risk for osteoporosis. According to a study by Yusuf and Olutola in 2014 revealed that lifetime cigarette and snuff smoking increases a woman’s odds of becoming osteoporotic.
#10 – Previous History Of Fractures
A person who has had a fracture before has an increased risk for a recurrence as well as a diagnosis for osteoporosis. If you’ve had a fracture previously, it’s indicative that you already have poor bone health and without proper medical and lifestyle management, the chances of a fracture recurring are pretty high, especially among first-degree relatives.
4 Tips For Fighting Osteoporosis
While heredity is a factor we can’t ignore, the food we eat and the physical activity are modifiable risk factors that we can change in order to help fight against bone loss and damage. Here are few tips to keep your bones healthy and strong!
#1 – Get Enough Bioavailable Calcium In Your Diet. Here’s a quick rundown of how much calcium a person should take every day according to the NIH:
– 0 to 6 months: 200 mg
– 7 to 12 months: 260 mg
– 1 to 3 years: 700 mg
– 4 to 8 years: 1000 mg
– 9 to 13 years: 1300 mg
– 14 to 18 years: 1300 mg (including pregnant and lactating mothers)
– 19 to 50 years: 1000 mg (including pregnant and lactating mothers)
– 51 to 70 years: 1000 mg (males), 1200 mg (females)
– 71 years and older: 1200 mg
You can get calcium not just from milk but other dairy products like cheese and yogurt. You can also get them from certain vegetables like broccoli, kale, okra, and spinach. To give you an idea of how much calcium you should include in your diet, 8 ounces of whole milk has 276 mg of calcium while the same amount of yogurt has 415 mg.
#2 – Exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services encourages a total of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. You can cycle, jog, run, or swim – whatever form of exercise you prefer to help fight against osteoporosis. Strengthening exercises should also an important part of your regime.
#3 – Avoid Smoking At All Costs.
#4 – Keep Alcohol Intake To A Minimum. Do not drink more than 3 or more units of alcohol per day because more than that causes bone damage and increases the risk for falling and fractures.