Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?

Having strong bones and preventing fractures is a concern for everyone, but four times more women than men will face the diagnosis of osteoporosis. We are familiar with the important vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin K, and vitamin D, for strengthening bones, but some of the risk factors may come as a surprise. Check out this list, provided by the Life Extension Foundation.

Gender–Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. This difference is related to several reasons including: the abrupt loss of estrogen at menopause, women start with a lower bone density and lose bone more quickly than men, and women live longer than men.

Age–Increasing age is associated with falling production of estrogen and testosterone, which increases osteoporosis risk. Levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) rise with age, binding to the sex hormones and reducing their total bioavailable levels, which further aggravates bone loss. Advancing age also means longer total exposure to chronic oxidant stress and inflammation, both of which contribute to development of osteoporosis [1,2].

Ethnicity–Caucasian and South Asian people have greater risk of osteoporosis [3].

Family History–A family history of hip fracture carries a twofold increased risk of fracture among descendants [4].

Estrogen Exposure–Women with late puberty or early menopause are at higher risk due to a decrease in estrogen exposure over their lifetime [5].

Vertigo–Several recent studies have shown an association between "benign positional vertigo" (BPV) and lower bone mineral density6. The inner ear, where balance is maintained, contains tiny bone particles that may be affected in osteoporosis5. Some experts recommend that people with BPV should undergo screening for osteoporosis [6].

Slim stature (underweight)–People with a body mass index of 19 or less or have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age [6].

Obesity–Increased body fat was long thought to be protective against osteoporosis. Accumulating evidence, however, suggests that obesity-related components such as insulin resistance, hypertension, increased triglycerides, and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol are all risk factors for low bone mineral density [7].

Cardiovascular Disease–Cardiovascular disease and mortality are associated with osteoporosis and bone fractures. That's not surprising since the two conditions share many mechanisms and risk factors, such as oxidant damage and inflammation [8].

Chronic Stress & Depression–Both conditions increase cortisol production, leading to suppression of sex hormone production, increased insulin resistance, and enhanced release of inflammatory cytokines9. All of these effects increase the risk of bone mineral loss and osteoporosis [10].

Other risk factors for osteoporosis include: HIV infection, anorexia, cancer, smoking, caffeine, and alcoholism.

Medication Use–A variety of medications increase one's risk for osteoporosis.

These include:

Corticosteroids. These immune-suppressive drugs mimic the effect of stress-induced cortisol, with all of its suppression of sex hormones, weight gain, and insulin resistance.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Both depression and medications used in its treatment, such as SSRIs, increase the risk of osteoporosis [11].

"Bloodthinning" Medications (Anticoagulants). The drug Coumadin, used to prevent clot formation in patients with cardiovascular disease, acts to block the beneficial effects of vitamin K and is associated with decreased bone mineralization in some patients. Low molecular weight heparin, an unrelated blood thinner, can also cause reduced bone mineral content [11].

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Reprinted with exclusive permission of Life Extension Magazine®.


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4 Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Oct;22(5):723-35.

5 Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2003 Oct;112(10):885-9.

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10 Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2010 Dec;8(4):185-91.

11 Int J Rheum Dis. 2009 Jul;