About 54 million adults in the United States are affected by osteoporosis and osteopenia (which means low bone mass). These conditions significantly increase the risk for serious spine, hip and thigh fractures that can cause long-term disability, considerable discomfort and long-term recovery.
Although osteoporosis occurs most commonly in menopausal women, anyone can develop the disease. Understanding your risks for osteoporosis can play a very important role in learning how to manage the disease so serious fractures can hopefully be prevented.
Here’s what you should know about osteoporosis and how Capitol Imaging Services works to diagnose overall bone health.
What are the causes of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones,” and it occurs when the body loses bone faster than it can replace it. Normally, old bone tissue is replaced by new tissue on a regular basis.
But as we grow older, that replacement cycle can be disrupted or altered, and the amount of old bone that’s being lost outpaces the amount or new bone that’s being generated. As a result, we lose bone mass. Bones become more porous and weaker, which makes them more likely to fracture.
People who have osteoporosis are more likely to have these fractures from falls and other accidents. They can also break one or more bones with simple activities such coughing, bending and lifting. Even something as simple as changing your position or bumping against an object can cause a fracture in more advanced stages of the disease.
When osteoporosis attacks the bones of the spine, it can cause ongoing pain and a substantial decrease in overall quality of life.
Common Osteoporosis risk factors
Some risk factors for osteoporosis are totally out of your control. They include*:
- Your gender: women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
- Age: the older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
- Ethnicity: you’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent.
- Family history: having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father experienced a hip fracture.
- Body frame size: men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies. Osteoporosis is more likely to occur in people with:
- Low calcium intake: a lifelong lack of calcium plays a role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
- Eating disorders: severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens bone in both men and women.
- Gastrointestinal surgery: surgery to reduce the size of your stomach or to remove part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium.
Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process.
Some lifestyle habits may increase your risk of osteoporosis. Those examples include:
- Inactive lifestyle: people who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active. Any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture are beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.
- Consuming too much alcohol: regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis.
- The use of tobacco products: the exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clearly understood, but it has been shown that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
As with most other medical conditions, one of the best things to do is to have it diagnosed early, even before significant bone loss has occurred. The good news is diagnosis can be accomplished with a simple, noninvasive, completely painless evaluation called DEXA (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry).
DEXA is performed at our Capitol Imaging Services affiliate, Diagnostic Imaging Services, at their centers in Covington, Marrero, Metairie and Slidell, LA. Diagnostic Imaging Services can be contacted directly by calling 504-883-5999 or 985-641-2390. Or, click the REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT button (above right) to send us an email requesting assistance.