Osteoporosis: What’s Your Risk Factor?

Osteoporosis: What's Your Risk Factor?

Osteoporosis isn’t just a concern for inactive seniors. It will almost certainly affect your life too.

By Taylor Mallory

At age 49, Meg Reggie, owner of Meg Reggie Public Relations, already has osteoporosis in her hip. A former gymnast and dancer, Reggie has remained a regular exerciser. But knowing that she had two warning signs – a mother with the condition and a small frame – she got tested.

“My doctor said to keep exercising and start taking calcium,” Reggie says. “I didn’t think much about it until she said, ‘Don’t go skiing or do anything that could jeopardize your hips.’ Then I felt old and a little scared.” Reggie’s advice to other women: Educate yourself on the warning signs and what makes one susceptible to osteoporosis – and what you can do to prevent it. “I just wish I had been taking calcium since my 30s,” she adds.

Osteoporosis threatens an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of people 50 years and older, but it can strike anyone at any age. In the U.S. today, 10 million people are estimated to have the disease, and almost 34 million have low bone mass, increasing their risk for osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). And the consequences can be devastating: Each year the disease leads to 1.5 million fractures in the U.S. and results in $18 billion in healthcare costs.

Because women are at the greatest risk, PINK has teamed up with the NOF to provide the basics of osteoporosis and bone health.

Are You at Risk?

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue. These lead to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fracture of any bone – especially the hip, spine and wrist.

Will it affect you?

Did you know:

• Ten million individuals – 80 percent of whom are women – are estimated to already have osteoporosis. Another 34 million are at risk.
• One in two women – and one in four men – age 50 and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her or his lifetime.
• Of women age 50 or older:

  • 20 percent of non-Hispanic white and Asian women have osteoporosis.
  • Five percent of non-Hispanic black women have osteoporosis, but the risk of hip fracture is increasing most rapidly among this population.
  • 10 percent of Hispanic women have osteoporosis.


How do you know you have it?

Often called a “silent” disease, bone loss occurs without symptoms. Many women are unaware of their condition until bones become so weak that a minor fall or bump causes a fracture or collapsed vertebrae.

What can you do to protect yourself?

The bad news? There are many risk factors over which you have no control, including:
• Personal history of fracture as an adult
• Current low bone mass
• History of fracture in a relative (i.e., parent or sibling)
• Being female
• Being thin or small-framed
• Family history of osteoporosis
• Estrogen deficiency as a result of menopause, especially surgically induced or early
• Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea, usually caused by low estrogen levels)
• Use of certain medications (corticosteroids, some chemotherapy, certain anticonvulsants and others)
• Presence of certain chronic medical conditions (including hyperthyroidism, multiple myeloma, organ transplantation, cancer and AIDS/HIV – or chronic kidney, certain lung or gastrointestinal disorders)
• Being Caucasian or Asian, though other women still have significant risks

The good news? Other risk factors are self-induced – so you can take control of preventing them now. These include:
• An inactive lifestyle
• Cigarette smoking
• Excessive use of alcohol
• Low lifetime calcium intake
• Vitamin D deficiency

What’s the difference between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis?

Arthritis affects joints and surrounding tissues (the places where bones come together), while osteoporosis affects the bones. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful degenerative joint disease, usually initiated by mechanical trauma such as repetitive motion or carrying around excess body weight, which wears away the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones. Despite the confusing name, people with OA appear to be less likely than those with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease, to develop osteoporosis.

Click here to read “Protect Your Bones: Osteoporosis Prevention” and “Got (No) Milk: PINK’s Guide to Calcium-Rich Foods and Supplements”.

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