By Jamell Andrews
Officially, the word osteoporosis means “porous bones”. The condition causes bones to become thin, weak, and brittle, with many holes inside of them that resemble a sponge. Osteoporosis makes bones much more prone to breakage. In many instances, people with this condition can fracture a bone doing nothing more than bending over, coughing, or suffering a mild fall.
In the early stages of osteoporosis, people usually do not experience any pain, nor do they have other symptoms that might alert them that a problem exists. The symptoms generally become noticeable once the bones have already weakened.
- Stooped posture
- Loss of height over time
- Fracture of the vertebra, hip, or wrist (or other bone)
- Back pain (the result of a fractured bone or collapsed vertebra)
Because the symptoms of osteoporosis are so vague and do not become obvious until the disease has reached an advanced stage, doctors recommend that people have bone density screenings if they fall into certain categories.
- Postmenopausal women who have at least one risk factor for osteoporosis
- Women who experience early menopause
- Women over the age of 65 and men older than 70, regardless of risk factors
- Postmenopausal women who recently stopped taking hormone therapy
- People over the age of 50 who have a history of broken bones
- Men between the ages of 50 and 70 who have at least one risk factor for osteoporosis
- Taking certain medications that are associated with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis (including prednisone, anti-seizure drugs, and aromatase inhibitors)
Causes and Risk Factors
Scientists are not sure of the exact cause of osteoporosis, but they are certain that the normal bone remodeling process becomes disrupted when the disease occurs.
The likelihood of someone developing osteoporosis depends upon how much bone mass that person obtained through their 20s, as well as how rapidly they start to lose it later on in life. Accumulated bone mass peaks at about age 30, so the more bone mass a person has by the age of 30, the less likely they are to develop osteoporosis later on.
The strength of a person’s bones depends on the size and density of the bones. Bone density is based on the amounts of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals that bones are made up of, and when the bones become deprived of any of those minerals, they start to lose their internal strength.
The following risk factors can contribute to increasing a person’s likelihood of developing osteoporosis. These are risk factors that cannot be changed or controlled:
- Family history
- Race (Caucasians and Asians are at an increased risk)
- Being female
- Body frame size (people who are extremely thin or who have small frames are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis)
- Medical conditions that affect bone strength
These risk factors can be controlled or changed:
- Tobacco use
- Low calcium intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Eating disorders
- Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol