Osteoporosis: The Causes

Last week we discussed National Osteoporosis Month, so this week we’re diving into the causes of the condition.

Bone mass in humans start declining from the age of 30-35 years old. In some people, the rate of this decline will occur more quickly. Nutritional deficiencies can amplify the process, but genetics are said to have the strongest impact on bone health. Though osteoporosis isn’t, strictly speaking, inherited, it does tend to run in families.

In women, bone mass decline tends to speed up in post-menopausal women. This is caused by a decline in the level of oestrogen. People on low-calcium diets can also experience bone-density loss, and low calcium absorption and a vitamin D deficiency can also lead to osteoporosis. As such, including high-calcium foods in your diet and making sure you get enough sunlight is very important.

Another condition that relates to bone density, and is proportionally higher in women, are eating disorders such as anorexia. The teenage years are especially important in influencing lifelong bone health, as approximately 40% of bone mass is formed in these few years, making health conditions like anorexia particularly detrimental to young people.

So, for parents of teenagers, it is imperative to ensure they have a healthy diet so that they get enough calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. Children who cannot eat certain food groups, such as dairy, still need these minerals and proteins from food sources elsewhere (e.g. green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones, seeds, sesame, chia etc.) It’s all about maintaining a healthy diet!

Avoid drinking too much caffeine because it can affect the balance of calcium in your body. Caffeine intake of three or more cups of coffee or tea (or the equivalent) per day is also associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis.

Other factors that may affect the onset of osteoporosis include alcohol consumption, smoking cigarettes, and the use of medicines. Alcohol and cigarettes can speed up bone-density loss, while certain medications – such as cortico-steroids or anti-convulsant for arthritis or asthma, as well as Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) e.g. omeprazole – can also have a negative impact on bone density.

Hormonal diseases or thyroid conditions can also contribute to osteoporosis, while conditions such as chronic liver and kidney disease can also put you at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

But don’t panic!

It’s important to remember that osteoporosis is a painless condition until a fracture occurs which is what causes the pain. Once the fracture has stabilised and healed, the pain will reduce.

You cannot see or feel your bones getting thinner and many people are unaware of any problems until they break a bone, but once you’re aware, you can make the relevant lifestyle changes to keep your bones healthy.

Am I at risk?

There is a questionnaire you can complete to give you an idea of your risk of bone fracture. It’s called FRAX. Click here to give it a go. Once you complete the form and click calculate, a red box will appear. Simply select ‘View NOGG Guidance’ and you can see where you are on the graph – green equates to low risk, amber implies it would be good to have a bone mineral test, and red means you have high risk of fracture.

 

If you are concerned that you may be at risk of osteoporosis, do get in touch with us on 01722 512 043 and we can book you in for an assessment.

    

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