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Risk factors for Osteoporosis

The word osteoporosis means "porous bones." It is sometimes called the "silent disease" because there are no telltale symptoms--until a brittle or weak bone breaks. An elderly woman may fall and break a hip, or her spinal vertebrae may undergo tiny breaks (called microcompressions) and begin to collapse onto each other. And even more painful, a broken hip or other fracture can set off a steep decline in health.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • A thin, slight build
  • Being either postmenopausal or of advanced age
  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Being Caucasian or Asian American (although African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at risk too)
  • Low calcium intake
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Anorexia
  • Use of certain medications such as corticosteroids or anticonvulsants
  • In men, low testosterone levels

Fortunately, osteoporosis is not inevitable. First, men and women both can build bone mass through about age 30 with a diet high in calcium and weight-bearing exercise. Second, maintain those good health habits as you get older. And finally, if you are a woman, discuss osteoporosis and menopause with your doctor, as bone loss can be rapid in the first five to seven years after menopause.

For more information about osteoporosis and your health, talk to your doctor, call Mercy On Call at 358-2767 or 800-358-2767, or visit the web site of the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

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