What is the main cause of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes your bones to be weak and more likely to break. Organs affected by osteoporosis include the ovaries and thyroid gland.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes your bones to be weak and more likely to break. Organs affected by osteoporosis include the ovaries and thyroid gland.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes your bones to be weak and more likely to break. Most people don't know that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone.

Osteoporosis affects about 20% of women aged 50 and over and almost 5% of men aged 50 and over.

The main cause of osteoporosis is bone loss due to low estrogen levels. Estrogen plays a part in maintaining and building bones.

In women, estrogen levels drop significantly during menopause. Men's level of sex hormones decrease more gradually with age.

Who gets osteoporosis?

There are some risk factors linked to osteoporosis. These include:

Age

You can get osteoporosis at any age, but it's usually found in people over 50. After this age, your bones gradually lose their stockpile of essential minerals like calcium.

Body size

You're at greater risk if you're slender and have thin bones. This may be due to:

  • Low muscle mass
  • Lower estrogen
  • Less fat to pad your bones during a fall
  • Poor nutrition

Family history

Your risk is higher if one of your parents has a history of hip fracture or osteoporosis.

Gender

Women have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis than men. 

Menopause

When your estrogen levels drop sharply at menopause, the mineral loss from your bones increases. This problem is worse if you have early menopause or ovaries removed before menopause. Your bones then have fewer years to benefit from estrogen.

Medical conditions

Many medical conditions can make your bones more likely to break. These include:

Lifestyle factors

Your risk for weak bones is higher if you:

  • Don't exercise enough. Your bones maintain their strength from gravity and the pull of your muscles. 
  • Don't get enough vitamin D and calcium.
  • Don't eat enough vegetables and fruits. Besides calcium and vitamin D, your bones need other nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamin K
  • Smoke. Smoking causes damage to your bones. 
  • Diet often. If you go on rapid weight-loss diets that don't include nutrients, your body may take these nutrients from your bones. This makes them more likely to break. 
  • Drink a lot. Long-term heavy drinking weakens your bones. 

Symptoms of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a "silent" disease. You may not have any symptoms until you break a bone. You can fracture any bone in your body, but they happen more often in your hip, wrist, and spine.

A broken bone doesn't sound like a serious condition, but a hip fracture can change your life drastically. About 50% of people with a hip fracture lose their independence. About 20% of people who break their hip die within a year.

If you fracture your spine, this can cause it to collapse. You may have these symptoms:

Testing for osteoporosis

Your doctor will recommend a bone density test to check how strong your bones are. One standard test is central dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This is a type of x-ray of your bones that uses very low radiation.

You may need a bone density test if you're:

  • 65 years or older
  • Under 65 and have osteoporosis risk factors 

How to improve your bone health

You can reduce your risk of osteoporosis by making some lifestyle changes, including:

  • Quit smoking
  • Limit your alcohol. Women should have no more than two drinks a day. For men, no more than three drinks a day.
  • Exercise regularly. Include some weight-bearing activities like walking, tennis, or stair-climbing.
  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Most adults with osteoporosis need about 1,300 milligrams of calcium and 800 international units of vitamin D daily. Talk to your doctor to determine how much calcium and vitamin D you need.

Prevent falls at home

Many things can make you fall. These are some ways to help prevent a fall.

  • Have your eyesight and hearing tested. Wear your glasses or hearing aid if you need them.
  • Stand up slowly. When you get up quickly, your blood pressure can drop and make you feel giddy. 
  • Wear shoes with non-skid soles that support your feet well.
  • Be careful when walking on slippery or icy surfaces. 
  • Get enough sleep. Being sleepy can make you more prone to falling.
  • Drink less alcohol. Even a tiny amount of alcohol can make you more likely to fall. 
  • Tell your doctor if you have fallen, even if you weren't hurt at your next check-up. A fall can alert your doctor to problems with your eyesight or medications or a new medical condition. 

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Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures See Slideshow

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Medically Reviewed on 1/10/2022
References
SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Genomics & Precision Health Osteoporosis."

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Improving Your Bone Health."

National Institute on Aging: "Prevent Falls and Fractures."

National Osteoporosis Foundation: "BONE BASICS WHO GETS OSTEOPOROSIS."

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: "Osteoporosis Overview."

Office on Women's Health: "Osteoporosis."

OrthoInfo: "Osteoporosis."