You cannot see or feel your bones getting thinner and many people are unaware of any problems until they break a bone or start to lose height. Men and women are both affected by osteoporosis and so are younger women who rarely realise they are at risk.
Am I at Risk?
There are a number of factors to take into consideration, several are well-known but others are less well publicised like these:
1. If one of your parents has broken a hip, you may be more susceptible to developing osteoporosis and fragile bones.
2. As we get older bones become more fragile and more likely to break. By the age of 75 about half of the population will have osteoporosis.
3. Women are more likely to have osteoporosis as we have smaller bones than men and menopause accelerates the process of bone turnover. Bones need both oestrogen to remove old bone and progesterone to help build new bone but at menopause both these hormones decline with progesterone production ceasing completely.
4. If you have low BMI (body mass index) below 19g/m2 you are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
5. Anorexia or a history of crash dieting will also have an effect.
6. Excessive exercising can also deplete the bones.
7. Previous fractures because if you have already broken bones easily, then you are much more likely to have fractures in the future.
8. Smoking is a hazard as current smokers are more likely to break bones.
9. Alcohol is also a risk if you have an intake of more than 3 units daily.
Medical conditions and medications that can affect osteoporosis:
You are not likely to be aware of the affect that certain conditions and drugs that will impact and may increase your risk factor.
The conditions include:
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Hyperthyroidism when levels of thyroid hormone are abnormally high
– Parathyroid disease when levels of parathyroid hormone are abnormally high
– Conditions that affect the absorption of food such as Crohns or coeliac disease
– Conditions that cause long periods of immobility
– Other conditions may be associated with osteoporosis such as diabetes and HIV
– People who have had an organ transplant
– If you have experienced respiratory diseases
Some medicines also increase your risk:
– Taking corticosteroid tablets for other medical conditions for over three months
– Anti epileptic drugs
– Breast cancer treatments such as aromatase inhibitors
– Prostate cancer drugs that affect either the production of testosterone or the way it works in the body
– Injectable progestogen contraceptives such as Depo-Provera
– Some drugs used for mental health problems (particularly psychosis)
Reducing your risk
If you have some of the above risk factors then it makes sense to be proactive and take very good care of your bones. You obviously can’t do anything about your family history or medical conditions you may have but there are ways to minimise the risk of fractures.
First address any hormone imbalance, particularly oestrogen dominance, as you need good progesterone levels to rebuild bone and maintain a strong skeletal structure. This means supplementing with bioidentical natural progesterone, particularly if you are on any oestrogen HRT, to ensure that the hormones are balanced and can work together on clearing old bone and creating the right conditions for bone renewal.
Next look at your diet and lifestyle and ensure you are providing the nutrients your bones need. Although it can be tempting at menopause when there is a natural increase in weight to go on a diet, make it a sensible one and not a crash diet that can deplete your bones. Take regular (not excessive) gentle weight bearing exercise such as walking, dancing or tai chi as they are all beneficial both physically and mentally.