Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the bones become increasingly weak and brittle, often resulting in fractures. People with this condition may have bones so brittle they can be broken simply by a violent cough. Osteoporosis is a serious condition, but often a preventable one, and knowing one's risk factors is the first step in prevention.
Some risk factors for this condition are beyond control, but it is important to be aware of them nevertheless. In age groups under 75, women are at higher risk of osteoporosis than men. In fact, women are twice as likely as men to suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture. This is in part because women tend to have less bone mass than men and to live longer.
Age is a major risk factor for this condition. Bones weaken as we age, making the disease a greater threat for older people. Another risk factor is body type. Those with smaller frames are more prone to osteoporosis.
People of Caucasian and Southeast Asian descent are at greater risk of developing the disease than other racial groups. In addition, family history is significant. If a family member, especially a brother or sister, has had this condition, the risk of developing the disease oneself is increased.
Other risk factors for osteoporosis are a matter of lifestyle. Smoking, alcoholism, excessive consumption of soda, and low calcium intake are all risk factors. A sedentary lifestyle can also put one at risk.
Certain medications increase one's risk of bone degeneration, including corticosteroids, along with certain diuretics, antacids, and anti-seizure medications. Always be aware of the possible side effects of any drugs you are taking, either prescription or over-the-counter. Exposure to estrogen and thyroid hormone over a lifetime also put one at risk for osteoporosis. Both hormones may be naturally released in the body or included in medication.
Some medical conditions put the patient at increased risk for osteoporosis. These include eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, breast cancer, hyperparathyroidism, Crohn's disease, Cushing's disease, and depression.
If you or someone in your care has any of the risk factors for osteoporosis, discuss them with your doctor and begin taking steps to build healthier bones. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle, along with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, can help keep bones strong.