Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that weakens bones, increasing the risk of fractures. Fifty percent of women and 25 percent of men over age 50 will fracture a bone due to this common condition. Are you at risk?
The following factors impact your risk of osteoporosis:
Age. Those over the age of 50 have a higher risk, which continues to increase with age.
Gender. Women are more at risk than men, partly because men often have larger bones. However, research has shown osteoporosis-related fractures are deadlier for men.
Ethnicity. Non-Hispanic whites and Asians have a greater risk than Hispanics and African-Americans.
Menopause. Low levels of estrogen during and after menopause can cause bone loss in women. In fact, women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass after menopause.
Predispositions. If you were born with smaller than average bones or have previously fractured a bone, you’re more at risk.
Family history. Having a close relative diagnosed with this disease can be an indication of your risk.
Smoking. Compared to nonsmokers, smokers tend to have lower bone density.
Nutrition. Eating disorders and diets lacking adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D can decrease your bone health.
Exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to weakening bones.
Weight. Those with low body weight and less muscle have a higher risk.
Medicines. Taking certain medications, such as corticosteroids, or going through cancer treatment can increase your risk.
These factors can help you estimate your personal risk, but only a healthcare professional can provide a diagnosis.
Many people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they experience advanced symptoms or break a bone. That’s why it’s important to discuss screening with your doctor early. Bone density tests, blood tests, and x-rays can detect osteoporosis and its precursory conditions. A bone density test is most commonly used to diagnose this disease and consists of a painless, simple, noninvasive exam.
Discuss your risk with your doctor, who may advise you to take nutritional supplements to strengthen your bones. Additionally, you can engage in weight-bearing exercises upon your doctor’s approval; these include walking, jogging, tennis, dancing, and yoga. It’s also important to maintain a healthy body weight. Be sure to limit your alcohol consumption, and don’t smoke.
If you are approaching or have surpassed 50 years of age, talk with your primary care physician about screening options. In the event of a fracture, call 911 or head to your preferred emergency room for treatment.
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