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Risk factors of osteoporosis

Picture of Milk and BreadOsteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone quality. This results in bones becoming thin and weak, which increases the risk of fracture as they are easy to break. It is known as the “silent thief” because bone loss occurs without any symptoms. In fact, often it is not until someone fractures a wrist, spine, rib, or hip that osteoporosis is suspected (and often it is missed even after a fragility fracture).

As many as two million Canadians have osteoporosis. One in four women, including a third of women aged 60-70 years and two thirds of women aged 80 years and older, will be diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Research shows that weight-bearing exercise, including soccer, is an effective way to reduce the amount of bone loss over time and preserve bone mass, and thus, reduce your likelihood of developing osteoporosis and having a fracture. To prepare for the FIF Women’s World Cup™ this weekend and Father’s Day, #TeamArthritis challenges you to do something that reduce your chance of getting osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is less common in men than in women for a number of reasons. Men have greater peak bone mass and do not experience the accelerated bone loss women do at menopause. As well, they generally do not live as long and are less likely to fall than elderly women. But while it is often considered a “woman’s disease”, one in eight men over the age of 50 have osteoporosis.

There are many factors that play a role in the development of osteoporosis. Some risk factors, such as age and family history, are considered to play a more influential role, however all are important:

  • Age – People aged 65 or older are at higher risk for osteoporosis.
  • Gender – Women have lower bone mass and with menopause bone loss is accelerated.
  • Race – People who are of Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American or Southeast Asian descent are at greater risk.
  • Family history – Fragility fractures, especially if your mother had a hip fracture. People who have a parent or sibling with osteoporosis may be at greater risk.
  • Body frame and size – People with slender and small frames tend to have less bone mass to draw from as they age and are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Hormone levels – The reduction of estrogen during menopause can be a risk factor for osteoporosis. Certain cancer treatments may also drop the levels of testosterone levels in men and estrogen level in women.
  • Glucocorticoid therapy – More than five months of continuous use of glucocorticoid therapy such as prednisone may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Medications – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), long-term use of the blood-thinning medication heparin, and some anti-seizure medications, diuretics and aluminum-containing antacids also can cause bone loss.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – People with rheumatoid arthritis are at greater risk due to their use of medications such as methotrexate and glucocorticoid therapy.
  • Medical conditions and procedures that decrease calcium absorption – Examples are celiac disease and Crohn’s disease
  • Lifetime exposure to estrogen – Women who have infrequent menstrual periods or experience menopause before 45 have an increased risk.
  • Osteopenia – Lower than normal bone mineral apparent on x-ray examination.
  • Hypogonadism – Low testosterone in men, or loss of menstrual periods in younger women.
  • Thyroid hormone – Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur either because your thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) or because you take excess amounts of thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
  • Breast cancer – Postmenopausal women who have had breast cancer are at increased risk of osteoporosis, especially if they were treated with chemotherapy or aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole and letrozole, which suppress estrogen. Women treated with tamoxifen are not at increased risk as this drug may reduce the risk of fractures.
  • Low calcium intake – Low calcium intake contributes to poor bone density, early bone loss, and an increased risk of fractures.
  • Dietary factors – People who suffer from an eating disorder, such as anorexia, or have had gastrointestinal surgery may are at higher risk.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Exercise throughout life is important. Children who are active and eat enough calcium-rich food have greater bone density. While you can increase your bone density at any age, beginning an active lifestyle in childhood contributes to adult bone health.
  • Excess soda consumption – While the link between caffeinated sodas and osteoporosis is not entirely known, it is believed that caffeine may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium, which may contribute to bone and mineral loss.
  • Steroids and other medications – Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications can affect the bone-building process.
  • Alcoholism – Excess consumption of alcohol reduces bone formation and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Alcoholism is one of the leading risk factors for men.
  • Depression – People who experience serious depression have increased bone loss.
  • Tobacco – Smoking increases the risk of developing osteoporosis

It is important to note that the more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of developing osteoporosis. To learn more about osteoporosis, please click here. To learn the difference between osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, please click here.