As we age, the natural aging process can cause physical and mental deterioration. Many of us will also develop osteoporosis. Because the more you know, the better you can plan and prepare, let’s explore what you need to know about osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. Our bones are living tissue and constantly changing. From the moment of birth until young adulthood, bones are developing and strengthening. Our bones are at their most dense in our early 20s – called peak bone mass. As we age some of our bone cells begin to dissolve bone matrix (resorption), while new bone cells deposit osteoid (formation). For people with osteoporosis, bone loss outpaces the growth of new bone. Bones become porous, brittle and prone to fracture. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Osteoporosis?
It is impossible to know exactly who will develop osteoporosis because a wide range of factors combine to determine an individual’s risk for eventually developing osteoporosis, including:
- Bone mass. How much bone mass you attained in your youth is a big factor. Inheritance as well as ethnicity play a role in whether or not you enjoy peak bone mass. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have to begin with and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis in your later years.
- Your sex. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
- Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
- Race. 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 fractured a hip.
- Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they might have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
- Hormones. Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies, including:
- Sex hormones. Lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bone.
- Thyroid problems. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss.
- Dietary factors. Osteoporosis is more likely to occur in people who have:
- Low calcium intake.
- Eating disorders.
- Gastrointestinal surgery.
- Medications. Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process. In addition, medications used to combat or prevent seizures, cancer, gastric reflux, and transplant rejection can contribute to osteoporosis.
- Medical Conditions. The risk of osteoporosis is higher in people who have certain medical problems, including:
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Kidney or liver disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Lifestyle Factors. Some bad habits can increase your risk of osteoporosis, such as:
- Sedentary 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.
- Excessive alcohol consumption. Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis.
- Tobacco use. The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clear, but it has been shown that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. If you have additional questions about osteoporosis, contact your health care provider. For questions and concerns about elder law issues, contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.
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