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Are You At Risk For Developing Osteoporosis?

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Risk factors for developing osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, doesn’t make enough or both. We know osteoporosis can develop as a result of aging, but that isn’t the only factor. In fact, you might be at risk without even knowing it. Michele Kettles, MD, MSPH, Chief Medical Officer of Cooper Clinic discusses several causes of osteoporosis and who may be most at risk. 

Not only are women at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis than men, but Caucasian women who are under 127 lbs. are at an even higher risk for developing the bone disease. Why? “There’s less weight pulling on your bones,” explains Kettles. “That’s why walking and exercise is great for bone density, because we pound on our bones.” Kettles says women who walk regularly can lower their risk for fracture, especially smaller women. For men, weighing less than 154 lbs. can increase the risk for osteoporotic fracture.
Drug Use
People who take certain medications, such as steroids, are at a higher risk for osteoporosis, even if it’s prescribed for medical purposes such as asthma, infection or other orthopedic issues. Anti-seizure medication and thyroid medication can also put patients at a risk for bone loss.  “Thyroid problems are really common and a lot of people take medication for it,” says Kettles. “Sometimes, there’s a tendency to take a higher dose than needed, but that can cause increased bone loss. You want to take thyroid medicine if you need it, but you want to make sure you’re taking the right dosage for you.”

Family history matters. “We know there are genes for osteoporosis,” explains Kettles.  “We’re not at a point where we can test individuals for them reliably yet and use that information.” That being said, Kettles says if osteoporosis runs in your family, you’re likely at a higher risk for developing bone loss down the road. 

Being Sedentary 
“I like to tell people the worst thing you can do for your bones is be an astronaut,” says Kettles. “Take away gravity and you’re not putting weight on your bones at all.” While traveling through space isn’t likely for most of us, Kettles says being sedentary here on Earth has the same implications. “Sitting on the couch and not bearing your weight can lead to bone loss,” says Kettles. 

Vitamin D Deficiency                                                                                                                        “We’ve known for 10 years now that low Vitamin D is a medical problem,” says Kettles. A simple blood test can check your Vitamin D levels and Kettles recommends everyone get tested. Several simple ways to up your Vitamin D levels exist, such as taking a Vitamin D supplement like the ones available through Cooper Complete. For those who have a severe deficiency, a prescription may be needed. “We often see a good rebound in bone density after the deficiency is treated,” says Kettles. “You’ll also feel better. Just like we feel good after we spend a day outdoors in the sun, Vitamin D has that same effect. People often feel better.” What about upping your Vitamin D by changing your diet? That can often be easier said than done. “The problem with diet is there are very few good sources of Vitamin D,” says Kettles. “Milk is fortified with Vitamin D, but for example, there are 400 units of Vitamin D in an 8 oz. glass of milk. When we’re treating someone, we’re giving them 1,000, 2,000 or even 5,000 units. That would take a lot of milk.” 

Not Achieving Peak Bone Mass  
“Some people simply don’t achieve peak bone mass in their youth,” explains Kettles. Like a lot of our growth, peak bone mass is often achieved by our early 20s. That means all of the bone mass you’re probably going to get is grown by that point in your life. “Getting adequate calcium during those bone growth years is so important,” says Kettles. “But, if you were a lactose intolerant kid, you maybe didn’t get enough calcium to achieve peak bone mass.” Lack of Vitamin D and exercise in youth can also put people at risk for osteoporosis later in life. 

“Some women really lose a lot of bone mass going through menopause,” says Kettles. “Often times, there can be a genetic component tied to that as well.” Kettles says women are often monitored for bone density around the time they would enter menopause. “You want to catch those women who are really losing a lot of bone mass and do whatever you can to address it before it crosses over into osteoporosis,” says Kettles.

Despite all of your best efforts, osteoporosis can still happen. That being said, a variety of treatment options are available today. Kettles recommends talking with your primary care physician, especially if you have one or more of the risk factors listed above. Cooper Clinic offers DEXA bone density scans as part of comprehensive physical exams.

For more information about Cooper Clinic, call 972.560.2667 or visit for more information. 

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.