About Osteoporosis and its Causes

Osteoporosis is a serious condition which can affect the quality of your life as you get older. Learn more about what osteoporosis is and how it might be affecting you.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a medical condition which causes the bones to become brittle and weak due to low levels of calcium and minerals in your body. In this condition, your bones can break or fracture very easily, even from low impact stresses like coughing, bending, or falling down. There are typically no symptoms of osteoporosis, but the fractures and breakages that can happen are the most serious effects. Fractures can occur in any bone or joint in the body, but generally affect the hip, spine, or wrist. Osteoporosis is much more common in women, but there is a large group of men who also suffer from this osteoporosis bone condition as well. You can help to prevent osteoporosis by taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

The exact cause of osteoporosis isn't known for sure among scientists, but it is known that the process which remodels normal bone material is disrupted somehow by this condition. The process of remodeling bones occurs all the time. Sometimes called bone turnover, your body is continuously making new bone as older bone material is broken down. During your youth, your body produces new bone much faster than older bone material is being broken down so you are increasing your bone mass. Around the age of 30, your body reaches its peak bone mass. After your bone mass peaks, your body will of course continue generating new bone, but you will start to lose slightly more bone than you gain.

One of the most significant osteoporosis risk factors depends on how much bone mass you acquired during your peak bone mass stage (20s and 30s). If you haven't built up enough bone mass, chances are higher that you will lose bone mass at a faster rate. It may be easier to think of bone mass as something you can store to "cash in" later. This means the higher your bone mass, the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis. Unfortunately, nobody has control over how their body produces and remodels bones, so you may not be aware of any problems in your bone density until you take an osteoporosis test.

Also important to your osteoporosis risk is how much bone density you have. Density in your bones is a reflection of how much calcium and other important materials are present in your body. Without enough calcium and minerals, your bones lose density and strength and are more susceptible to fractures and breakages. You can help prevent osteoporosis by ensuring a sufficient intake of calcium and other essential minerals and vitamins that promote good bone health.

Hormone levels are also an important factor in your bone quality health. Especially for women in the postmenopausal stage, your estrogen levels drop, causing a decrease in your bone loss. This can also happen to men as well, when levels of estrogen and testosterone are abnormally low.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors

There are other factors that can reduce the strength and quality of your bone materials. The following are known risk factors for osteoporosis:

Being a postmenopausal woman
Smoking tobacco regularly
Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
Sedentary lifestyle, limited physical activities
A family history of osteoporosis
Overindulgence in alcohol
Persons with a smaller frame
Taking medications that are associated with bone loss or osteoporosis
Hormone imbalances, especially excessive thyroid hormone
Use of other prescription or illegal drugs
Having a medical condition that affects bone mass and density
Having had a medical procedure done that affects bone mass and density
Having broken a bone(s)