Q: What kinds of things might cause me to have a higher chance of getting osteoporosis?
A: This is a great question and one that every woman (and an increasing number of men) should know the answer to. The major risk factors for osteoporosis are:
• Female gender, Caucasian or Asian race, thin and small body frames, and a family history of osteoporosis. (Having a mother with an osteoporotic hip fracture doubles your risk of hip fracture.)
• Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, lack of exercise, and a diet low in calcium.
Poor nutrition and poor general health particularly a lack of Vitamin D, calcium, and weight bearing exercises.
Malabsorption (nutrients are not properly absorbed from the gastrointestinal system) from conditions such as celiac sprue.
• Low estrogen levels such as those that occur in menopause or with early surgical removal of both ovaries.
Amenorrhea (loss of the menstrual period) in young women also causes low estrogen and osteoporosis. It can occur in women who undergo extremely vigorous training and in women with very low body fat. Those who suffer from anorexia are more prone to osteoporosis
• Immobility from any condition that interferes with walking.
• Hyperthyroidism, a condition wherein too much thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland (as in Grave’s disease) or is caused by taking too much thyroid hormone medication.
• Hyperparathyroidism, a disease wherein there is excessive parathyroid hormone production by the parathyroid gland (a small gland located near the thyroid gland). Normally, the parathyroid hormone maintains blood calcium levels by, in part, removing calcium from the bone. In untreated hyperparathyroidism, excessive parathyroid hormone causes too much calcium to be removed from the bone, which can lead to osteoporosis.
• Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. When vitamin D is lacking, the body cannot absorb adequate amounts of calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency can result from lack of intestinal absorption of the vitamin such as occurs in celiac sprue and primary biliary cirrhosis.
• Certain medications can cause osteoporosis. Steroids are the most common culprit
It is recommended that women aged 65 and older be screened routinely for osteoporosis. Routine screening should begin at age 60 or earlier for women who find themselves in one of the categories above that produces increased risk for osteoporotic fractures.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.
Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.