Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
Although there are many ways to build stronger bones, those who are most prone to osteoporosis also must be aware of what behaviors and other factors can contribute to bone loss. The following are some bone robbers that you will want to avoid or limit for the health of your bones.
Alcohol. It's been suggested that small amounts of alcohol, say three to six drinks per week, may actually help your body to retain calcium and prevent osteoporosis by raising estrogen levels. But too much alcohol clearly weakens bones and damages your overall health. And the flip side to the estrogen coin is that the higher estrogen levels that are associated with moderate alcohol intake may be linked to an increased risk for breast cancer. So if you imbibe at all, go easy.
Smoking. Women who smoke tend to reach menopause earlier than nonsmokers, and this may be what increases their risk for osteoporosis. Smoking may also encourage bone loss in other ways that have yet to be identified. Ask your doctor for help in quitting.
Estrogen replacement therapy. After a woman experiences menopause, estrogen therapy can help forestall bone loss. The amount of estrogen required to both prevent bone loss and alleviate the symptoms of menopause is small, actually less than that in a typical birth control pill. Still, there are risks and possible side effects. So be sure to thoroughly discuss the pros and cons of estrogen replacement with your doctor.
Being overweight. This may be one of the few conditions where being overweight actually offer some protection. It's not known exactly why. It could be because the extra weight strengthens bone, or it could be that overweight women produce more estrogen than slender women. Considering the potential negative health effects that are associated with being overweight, such as the increased risks of high blood pressure and diabetes, it is not recommended that you purposely gain excess weight or stay overweight to prevent osteoporosis. However, it certainly highlights one of the many potential negative side effects of the waif-like, model-thin figure that is often glorified in the fashion industry and that is generally attainable only through disordered, unhealthy eating behaviors.
Pregnancy. Your risk of developing osteoporosis is greater if you have never been pregnant. Though being pregnant lowers your risk, it's not known if multiple pregnancies lower your risk further or whether, in fact, they might actually increase it.
Caffeine. Excessive caffeine intake, whether from coffee or other caffeinated drinks, can cause your body to lose calcium, but the effects are not quite as extreme as once thought. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee cancels the calcium in only about one tablespoon of milk.
Still, it's probably a good idea to keep your daily caffeine intake to no more than about three cups of brewed coffee or four cups of brewed tea. Keep in mind that other food products, including caffeinated soft drinks, can add to your caffeine intake.
nactivity. It has been proven beyond a doubt that regular physical activity is absolutely crucial to maintaining bone health throughout your life, so being sedentary means you're missing a simple, inexpensive, low-risk way to prevent calcium from leaching out of your bones -- perhaps the simplest way to keep your bones healthy and strong. Indeed, it's like letting calcium simply slip through your fingers.
Protein. In the United States, we generally eat far more protein than we need for good health. And it's believed that a high protein intake causes calcium to be excreted. Over time, this calcium loss, if not compensated for with dietary calcium, will come from the bones.
Long-term use of certain medications. People suffering from asthma or rheumatoid arthritis who take cortisone (a steroid) for long periods may diminish the strength of their bones.
Being Female. Women are several times more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
Race. Caucasians are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis than darker-skinned people are. Far fewer black women develop osteoporosis than do whites. People of Asian descent are also at higher risk for osteoporosis.
Bone structure. Small or petite women are at greater risk because of their small bones. If they experience the same rate of bone loss as larger women, they will develop osteoporosis sooner, simply because they have less bone to start with.
Early menopause. The earlier a woman experiences menopause, the greater her risk of osteoporosis. Risk also increases if a woman has a surgical menopause -- a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, or a double oophorectomy, or removal of both ovaries -- at an early age and is not put on hormone replacement therapy. If only the uterus is removed but the ovaries are left intact, the woman will likely experience normal menopausal symptoms in her early 50s, on average, and her risk will not be increased.
Family history. Many women with osteoporosis have at least one family member who has the disease. Still, a lack of family history doesn't rule out the possibility that a woman will develop osteoporosis.
The fight against osteoporosis is a lifelong one. It is never too early to start the proper behavior that will help protect your bones in the long run. In the next section, we'll provide several home remedies in the form of lifestyle choices that you can make to prevent or hinder osteoporosis.
For more information on disorders and symptoms related to osteoporosis, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our Home Remedies page.
- Read about ways you can ease arthritis pain yourself on our Home Remedies for Arthritis page.
- If you are worried you might develop painful joints, go to this article on how to prevent arthritis pain.
- Get innovative Home Remedies for Bursitis when you read this article.
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