Wasim H. Raja, MD

5 Factors That Put You at Risk for Developing Osteoporosis

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Osteoporosis — a medical condition that weakens bones — can strike anyone, especially people of a certain age, gender, and ethnicity. Keep reading to find out if you’re in the high-risk zone for osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a medical condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. It’s especially prevalent in women over 50, but anyone can develop it. 

Fortunately, there are several ways to treat osteoporosis, and Dr. Wasim H. Raja, our board-certified internist at Orange County Healthcare Center in Fountain Valley, California, specializes in diagnosing and treating this debilitating, progressive disease. 

Although osteoporosis is more likely to develop as you age, it’s not inevitable. You can take steps to keep your bones strong, such as getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D, staying active and doing weight-bearing exercises, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco. 

It’s also important to know whether you’re at risk for developing osteoporosis, so you can get screened regularly and start treatments early if the disease sets in. Here, Dr. Raja discusses the five most common risk factors for osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis 101

Your bones are porous, filled with countless holes that look like a honeycomb under a microscope. Throughout your life, your body breaks down bone tissue and creates new cells to keep your bones strong. But with osteoporosis, the new tissue doesn’t keep with the old, and your bones lose density, becoming fragile and susceptible to fractures.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

Anyone can get osteoporosis, but it’s more common in some than others. If any of the following factors apply to you, talk to Dr. Raja about osteoporosis testing and treatments.

1. Gender 

One in three women and one in five men get osteoporosis. Women are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis than men because their bodies produce less estrogen during menopause, which causes bone loss. Women also have smaller and thinner bones than men, so they’re more prone to fractures caused by osteoporosis. 

Men experience bone loss as they age, too, but it usually happens later in life than in women and isn’t as severe. 

2. Age 

The older you get, the higher your risk of osteoporosis becomes because bones naturally weaken with age. This makes senior citizens particularly vulnerable to this condition. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that adults over 65 receive a screening test for osteoporosis every two years unless otherwise indicated by their doctor. 

3. Family history 

If someone in your family has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, then your risk of developing the condition increases significantly. Knowing your family history helps Dr. Raja determine if you should take extra precautions or get screened more often for this condition. 

4. Race/ethnicity 

Certain races and ethnicities are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others due to differences in diet and lifestyle preferences. Caucasians and Asians are most likely to suffer from this condition due to genetic predisposition and lower calcium intake compared to other races or ethnicities, such as African Americans or Hispanics, who typically consume more dairy products that contain high levels of calcium (a key mineral required for strong bones). 

5. Lifestyle habits 

Unhealthy lifestyle habits can considerably increase your risk of osteoporosis since they affect how well your body absorbs minerals like calcium for strong bones and joints. 

Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively, having an unhealthy diet low in vitamin D and calcium-rich foods like dairy products, or leading a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to weaker bones over time, increasing your chances of developing osteoporosis in the future. 

Other risk factors

Although these are the most common risk factors, they aren’t the only ones. Certain medications can make you more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, such as thyroid medications, antidepressants, steroid hormones, and some cancer treatments.

Having had a previous bone fracture or hysterectomy ups your chances, as does menopause. Other diseases can also contribute to your risk. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems, cancers, HIV/AIDS, and dementia may increase your risk as well.

What to do if you’re at risk for osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is an increasingly common medical condition among seniors and postmenopausal women worldwide due to its sneaky nature — it can take years before symptoms start showing up. That’s why knowing the five main risk factors outlined above is so important; understanding what puts you at greater risk can help you make better decisions about how best to protect yourself from this debilitating condition.

If you live in Southern California and feel like you may be at risk for developing osteoporosis or want additional information on preventive measures you can take right now — contact us today online or by phone. We’re here to help.