Osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, is a condition characterized by progressive loss of bone density and strength, resulting in weak and fragile bones. Osteoporosis can happen to any of your bones, but it is most common in the hip, spine or wrist.
Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose calcium more quickly than the body can replace them, leading to a loss of bone mass or density. As a result, bones become fragile and break easily.
Osteoporosis is a major health concern for elderly people, affecting more than 44 million Americans and contributing to an estimated 2 million bone fractures per year. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about one in two women and one in four men age 50 and older will sustain bone fractures due to osteoporosis.
Causes and Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
There is no single cause for osteoporosis, but several known factors increase the risk of developing it. These include:
Being female puts you at higher risk of developing osteoporosis and broken bones. In fact, 80 percent of those affected are women. This because women generally have smaller bones than men and they also experience a rapid decline in the production of the hormone oestrogen during the menopause. Hormone oestrogen protects the bones so when oestrogen levels decrease, the bones lose calcium at a much faster rate, resulting in brittle bones.
Your risk for osteoporosis increases as you age, especially after age 50 or older.
If your parents or siblings have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or have experienced a fractured hip after a minor injury, you are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Being white or of Asian descent
Osteoporosis affects all races and ethnicities, however if you are white or of Asian descent, you have a higher risk.
If you smoke, your risk for osteoporosis increases for a number of reasons. First, the chemicals found in tobacco smoke inhibits proper calcium absorption. Second, smoking interferes with the normal functioning of your bone cells. And lastly, smoking prevents estrogen in women from protecting their bones as it should.
Excessive alcohol consumption
Consuming too much alcohol can decrease bone formation by interfering your body’s calcium supply. If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation (no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink per day for women).
Lack of physical activity
Lack of physical activity has been known to increase the risk of osteoporosis. This is because bones become thinner and weaker without activity.
Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D
It’s important to eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D because these nutrients work together to promote healthy bone growth. Calcium is an essential nutrient for healthy, strong bones and vitamin D helps the body to absorb the calcium more efficiently.
Being thin or small-framed
If you are thin or have a small frame, you are more likely to develop osteoporosis because you have less bone than people with larger frames. But, having a larger frame is not a defense against the disease.
Certain drugs, such as steroids, some corticosteroids and anticonvulsants, can weaken the bones and lead to osteoporosis.