Osteoporosis is a bone disorder characterized by too little bone mass. When a person
with osteoporosis gets older, their bones become brittle and weak, causing them to
break more easily.
Any bone can be affected, but most often breaks occur in the wrist, hip, or spine,
when a person trips and falls. A broken hip or spine is very serious, requiring
hospitalization and surgery. It will likely impair a person's ability to walk,
and cause pain, deformity, and sometimes death.
What Causes Osteoporosis
Our bones, in addition to providing support for the body, serve as a large store of an
important mineral called calcium. Calcium is needed by many of the body's cells.
Because bones have a lot of calcium, bone tissue is routinely broken down
to supply cells with the calcium they need.
Osteoporosis results when a person doesn't receive enough calcium to replenish bone loss,
or when a person's cells are unable to properly use calcium.
Who's At Risk?
Multiple genes and environmental factors influence bone health. If someone in your family has
osteoporosis, you may have inherited factors that make you more susceptible to this disease.
So it's important to know your family medical history. If you know you're at risk, you can
take steps to protect yourself.
Even if osteoporosis doesn't run in your family, you may still be at risk. All women are
generally at risk for developing osteoporosis due to hormonal changes that occur at
menopause. (Hormones control when bone tissue is broken down to access stored calcium.)
Women who weigh less than 127 pounds are even more likely to develop osteoporosis because
they have smaller bones. Eating disorders are especially dangerous. If a woman experiences
weight loss significant enough to alter her normal menstrual cycle, she will likely suffer
from osteoporosis in later years.
Reducing The Risk
It is important to eat foods high in calcium while you're young. You only have until age 20 or 30 to
build the bone tissue and store the calcium you will need in later years.
Begin now to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Make sure your diet includes the recommended daily amount of calcium, as well as Vitamin
D (which helps your body use calcium).
Participate in weight-bearing exercise to encourage the building of strong bones.
Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, and caffeine (factors that increase calcium loss from bone).
Talk to your doctor about how to build and maintain healthy bones.
Ask your doctor for a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis.
Genetic Science Learning Center. (2013, September 1) Osteoporosis.
Retrieved February 24, 2017, from http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/history/osteoporosis/
Osteoporosis [Internet]. Salt Lake City (UT): Genetic Science Learning Center; 2013
[cited 2017 Feb 24] Available from http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/history/osteoporosis/