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6 Osteoporosis Risk Factors You Should Know

April 30, 2024

The issue with osteoporosis is that you often don’t know you have it until it’s too late. And the end result, unfortunately, is an increased risk of fractures, pain and even death.

“Osteoporosis often has no signs or warnings at all. Many people go years without realizing they have it, missing out on valuable treatment that could slow the progression of the disease,” says KellyAnn Kosma, APRN, with the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute.

Here’s what you need to know about osteoporosis.

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Osteoporosis causes bones to become more brittle.

“Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by low bone density and increased fragility, leading to a higher risk of fractures,” Kosma says.

It happens when the new bone isn’t created as quickly as old bone needs to be removed, leaving the bone more brittle.

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6 risk factors for osteoporosis.

The short answer is that everyone should be on the look-out for osteoporosis, Kosma says. But certain factors do make some people more predisposed to the condition, including:

  1. Women, especially after menopause, have a 50% risk of the disease, compared to 25% in men.
  2. Caucasian or Asian, are at highest risk.
  3. Family history, especially in parents, of hip fractures
  4. Health conditions like diverticulitis or Crohn’s disease
  5. Long-term use of corticosteroids for rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory diseases
  6. Low body mass index (BMI)

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When to be screened for osteoporosis.

Everyone should be screened for osteoporosis at some point in their lives, Kosma says.

A bone density or DEXA scan is recommended every other year for:

  • Women ages 65 and older
  • Men ages 70 and older

But if you have any of the risk factors that put you at higher risk, your doctor may want to screen you starting at an earlier age.

Osteoporosis is treatable.

While osteoporosis won’t go away completely, there are lifestyle changes and medications that can help increase bone density and reduce risk of fractures, Kosma says.

“Often after experiencing one fracture, the risk of having another increases significantly, especially as you age,” she warns.

Untreated osteoporosis, particularly a hip fracture, can lead to serious complications, which makes screening even more important.

5 things you can do to prevent osteoporosis.

There are things you can do now to prevent osteoporosis:

  1. Practice weight-bearing exercises
  2. Do regular strength training
  3. Take in enough calcium and vitamin D
  4. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol
  5. Avoid smoking