Osteoporosis affects millions of women each year, and most do not know they have it until a bone breaks. So, what can you do to protect yourself from this silent disease?
There are a few contributing factors of osteoporosis that are out of our control:
- Gender: Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
- Age: The older the age, the greater the risk.
- Race: White and Asian women are at greatest risk.
- Family history: Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis increases your own risk.
- Body frame size: Small bodies tend to have higher risk, because they have less bone mass to start with.
A large part of the development of osteoporosis has to do with diet. The following are dietary factors that can affect bone density:
- Lifelong lack of calcium and vitamin D: Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, so if one consistently lacks vitamin D in their diet, their body will not absorb the calcium necessary to build and maintain strong bones. A lack of calcium in the diet will lead to lower bone density, which can increase the risk of bone fractures.
- Gastrointestinal surgery: Receiving surgery to remove parts of the intestine or make the stomach smaller reduces the surface area for the absorption of key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Alcohol intake: The regular consumption of more than 2 drinks per day can increase risk.
- Eating disorders: Severely restricting the intake of food will lead to a multitude of diseases caused by lack of nutrients, including osteoporosis.
Hormone levels play a big role in bone density. Here are a few ways that hormones can cause osteoporosis:
- Sex hormones: Reduced levels of estrogen lead to bone loss. This puts post-menopausal women at a high risk for osteoporosis, as menopause lowers estrogen levels.
- Thyroid glands: Increased levels of thyroid hormones can cause bone loss. This happens when the thyroid is overactive and can be caused by too much thyroid medication. Overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands can also lead to bone loss.
In addition to the uncontrollable risk factors, dietary factors and hormonal factors, there are a few additional factors that could contribute to the development of osteoporosis:
- Medical conditions: Those with celiac disease, cancer, kidney or liver disease, lupus, multiple myeloma, inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Medications: Those who take medication for seizures, cancer, transplant rejection and gastric reflux sometimes develop osteoporosis. In addition, long term use of corticosteroids has shown to interfere with the bone-building process.
- Sedentary/non-active lifestyle: A lack of weight-bearing activities decreases bone mass.
As you can see from the risk factors listed above, there are many factors that can contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Some things are out of your control like race or family history, but for the factors you have control over, there are steps you can take to strengthen your bones.
- Body weight: Being underweight can decrease your bone mass and being overweight can put extra pressure on your bones, so it is important to maintain a healthy weight.
- Diet: Making sure there is an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet is crucial to building and maintaining healthy, strong bones. Be careful of taking in too much calcium, as that can lead to heart disease and kidney stones. Another key nutrient for your bones is protein, which is the building block for your bones.
- Exercise: Exercising regularly can slow bone degeneration, strengthen bones, and can benefit you no matter when you start (although you will gain the most benefits of exercise if you start young).
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Replacing estrogen after menopause improves calcium absorption and has been shown to prevent osteoporosis in 70-80% of women.
Osteoporosis is generally a silent disease and most people do not know they have it until they break a bone. This is why it is so important to live a healthy lifestyle that promotes strong bones. If you have more questions about osteoporosis, would like to talk to your doctor about prevention and treatment options, schedule an appointment with us today.