Certain risk factors are linked to the development of osteoporosis and osteopenia. Some risk factors can be changed and some cannot.
For example, you can make a conscious effort to eat foods rich in calcium, exercise regularly, stop smoking etc.
Below is a list of the risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing the disease.
- Lack of bone-building nutrients (e.g. Calcium, Vitamin D
- Poor diet, especially too much fat and protein
- History of anorexia or bulimia
- Excessive alcohol
- Lack of exercise (sedentary jobs; e.g. computers/office)
- Thin or small frame
- Contraceptive pill
- Discontinuing HRT
- Use of chronic steroid therapy
- Early menopause (including surgically induced)
- Severe oestrogen or progesterone deficiency
- Parathyroid imbalance
- Bowel disorders (e.g. Crohn's or Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Lack of calcitonin (from the thyroid)
- Long term anticonvulsant therapy
- Medications which can cause dizziness
- Regular use of antacids
- Drink more than two cups of coffee daily
- Low testosterone levels in men
- Delayed puberty (men)
From this list you may have one or more risk factors. The most critical factor in assessing osteoporosis risk is family history, but sadly that is not something you can change. However, if you know you are at risk because of genetic disposition, or any of the other factors, then you should make it a priority to take preventative action. There are several ways to do this.
First, have regular bone scans to get the exact state of your bone health. If you have a family history try to get this done from your twenties onwards so you have a standard to check bone health from.
Second, look at your lifestyle and check just how much exercise you are taking. Weight bearing exercise is crucial to maintain healthy bones, even a daily walk will help keep them strong and there are plenty of other things you can do such as dancing, tennis, badminton, jogging – anything you can do that is pleasurable enough to make sure you maintain it. No amount of supplementation can take the place of regular exercise and its importance cannot be over emphasised to keep your bones strong. Lack of exercise, and particularly immobility, will increase the rate of bone breakdown.
Third, check your dietary habits. Avoid caffeine, tobacco, excess sugar, salt, protein and fat also excessive alcohol.
Bones are made up of minerals and the most important are calcium, magnesium, boron, potassium and phosphorous. Zinc is also a mineral required for bone healing and repair. Also adequate amounts of vitamins A, B6, B12, Folic Acid and Vitamins D, C and K are important.
Some good food sources to keep your bones healthy are dairy products; such as milk (all types, including soya), yoghurt and cheese. Vegetables; such as tofu, watercress, spinach and broccoli. Fish; such as pilchards, sardines and prawns. Fruit; such as dried figs and apricots, oranges and raisins. Nuts; such as almonds and brazils. It is generally considered beneficial for all women over 40 to take a supplement containing all the nutrients needed for bone growth; particularly Calcium, Vitamin D, Magnesium and Boron.