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How do I Reduce my Osteoporosis Risk?

Article Details
  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Osteoporosis is a bone disease which causes bones to become porous and brittle, leading to an increased risk of fractures. Bones become weaker because they lose bone mineral density, meaning that the concentration of calcium, phosphorous is reduced in comparison to healthy bone. People who are at risk of developing this disease can reduce their osteoporosis risk with dietary changes or supplements, regular exercise, and other lifestyle modifications.

There are few symptoms of osteoporosis; the main symptom is an increased risk of fractured bones. Other symptoms, which are not always experienced, are a gradual loss of height and posture, and back pain. Osteoporosis is diagnosed with a medical test called a dual energy x-ray, in which the patient is x-rayed with two energy beams simultaneously. With this test, a doctor can determine a patient’s bone mineral density, and estimate his or her osteoporosis risk.

The underlying cause of osteoporosis is disruption in the process of bone remodeling. This process occurs more or less constantly, with minerals constantly being absorbed into the bloodstream, and deposited in bones. Up until the mid-30s, minerals are deposited faster than they are absorbed, leading to progressively higher bone density. At this point the ratio begins to reverse, and the bones gradually lose mineral density. For women, loss of bone mineral density becomes much more rapid during and after menopause.

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There are many osteoporosis risk factors which can increase the likelihood that someone will develop osteoporosis. Sex and age are two of the most important, with postmenopausal women most at risk. Low dietary calcium intake and a sedentary lifestyle are also risk factors for osteoporosis. Chronic use of tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine can increase the rate at which bone mineral density is lost. Certain medications, including some types of corticosteroids, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, blood thinners, diuretics, and antacids, can also increase osteoporosis risk.

Just as there are many risk factors, there are also several ways an individual can reduce his or her osteoporosis risk. Avoiding consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol, not smoking, and keeping caffeine intake low are important, as all of these either reduce calcium absorption, or increase the rate of bone mineral loss. Postmenopausal women may consider hormone replacement therapy to help reduce their risk.

Nutrition to reduce the risk of osteoporosis should include plenty of dietary calcium; at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended for women before menopause, and 1,500 milligrams per day after menopause. Women using hormone replacement therapy can stick with a daily intake of 1,000 milligrams. People who are at risk of calcium deficiency due to medication, medical conditions, and other risk factors should also increase calcium intake, as recommended by their doctor. Adequate intake of vitamin D is also necessary, to help the body absorb calcium.

Finally, regular exercise can help increase bone mass in younger people, and help slow the rate of bone density loss later in life. Both strength-building exercise and weight-bearing exercise are important, to help improve muscle strength to support bones, and to help build and maintain bone density. Starting a regular exercise regimen while young is best for reducing osteoporosis risk; however taking up regular exercise is beneficial at any age.

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