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Osteoporosis (cont.)

What Increases Your Risk

The risk of osteoporosis increases with age as bones naturally become thinner. After age 30, the rate at which your bone dissolves and is absorbed by the body slowly increases, while the rate of bone building decreases. So overall you lose a small amount of bone each year after age 30.

Bone loss speeds up after about age 45, when women produce less of the hormone estrogen and men produce less of the hormone testosterone. But it usually does not affect people until they are 60 or older.

Whether a person develops osteoporosis depends on the thickness of the bones (bone density) in early life as well as health, diet, and physical activity later in life. Factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis in both men and women include:

  • Having a family history of osteoporosis. If your mother, father, or a sibling has been diagnosed with osteoporosis or has experienced broken bones from a minor injury, you are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
  • Lifestyle factors. These include:
    • Smoking. People who smoke lose bone thickness faster than nonsmokers.
    • Alcohol use. Heavy alcohol use can decrease bone formation, and it increases the risk of falling. Heavy alcohol use is more than 2 drinks a day for men and more than 1 drink a day for women. See pictures of standard alcoholic drinksClick here to see an illustration..
    • Getting little or no exercise. Weight-bearing exercises—such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or lifting weights—keep bones strong and healthy by working the muscles and bones against gravity. Exercise may improve your balance and decrease your risk of falling.
    • A diet low in foods containing calcium and vitamin D.

Other risk factors for osteoporosis may include:

  • Being inactive or bedridden for long periods of time.
  • Dieting excessively or having an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa.
  • Being a female athlete, if you have few or irregular menstrual cycles due to low body fat.

Women who have completed menopause have the greatest risk of osteoporosis because their levels of the estrogen hormone drop. Estrogen protects women from bone loss. Likewise, women who no longer have menstrual periods—either because their ovaries are not working properly or because their ovaries have been surgically removed—also can have decreased estrogen levels.

To check your risk for osteoporosis, use the Interactive Tool: Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?Click here to see an interactive tool. or use this osteoporosis risk questionnaire.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a tool called FRAX. Your doctors might use the FRAX tool to help predict your risk of having a fracture related to osteoporosis in the next 10 years. You can use this tool too. Go to the website at www.sheffield.ac.uk/FRAX, and click on Calculation Tool. If you have had a bone mineral density test (BMD) on your hip, you can enter your score. If you have not had that test, you can leave the score blank.

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