Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, increasing the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures.
Osteoporosis is often called “silent” disease because bone loss occurs without any noticeable symptoms. Therefore, patients may not be aware of their osteoporosis until they suffer a painful fracture.
Bones that are affected by osteoporosis can fracture with a relatively minor injury that normally would not cause a bone to fracture. The fracture can be either in the form of cracking or collapsing. The spine, hips, ribs and wrists are common areas of bone fractures from osteoporosis but it can occur in almost any skeletal bone. Broken bones in your spine are painful and very slow to heal. People with weak bones in their spine gradually lose height and their posture becomes hunched over. Over time a bent spine can make it hard to walk or even sit up.
Our bones are in a constant state of renewal, meaning new bone is made and old bone is broken down every day. Most reach their peak bone mass by their 20~30s. In the United States alone, 10 million people are suffering from osteoporosis, and 18 million more are at high risk of developing the disease.
Although it is a disease that can occur to anybody, some are at higher risk than other due to their characteristics. The unchangeable risk factors for osteoporosis are
1. Sex : women are 4 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men because they have naturally lighter, thinner bones and longer life span.
2. Age : After maximum bone density and strength is reached (generally around 20~30s), the bone mass begins to decline naturally. Therefore older you are, higher at risk.
3. Ethnicity : research has shown that Caucasian and Asian are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Additionally, hip fractures are twice as likely to occur in Caucasian women as in African-American women.
4. Body size : petite and thin women have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because they have less bone to lose than women with more body weight. Similarly, small-boned, thin men are at greater risk than men with larger body frame.
5. Family History : heredity is one of the most important risk factors for osteoporosis. If there is a family history of osteoporosis, then you are at greater risk of developing the disease.
Some lifestyle choices like tobacco usage, excessive alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
There is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen during perimenopause and menopause and the development of osteoporosis. Early menopause (before age 40) and any prolonged periods in which hormone levels are low and menstrual periods are absent or infrequent can cause loss of bone mass.