Osteoporosis: risk factors, symptoms, and treatment

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that leaves those affected with weak bones that can break easily. According to the Mayo Clinic, bone tissue is constantly being broken down and replaced because it's living tissue. But when someone has osteoporosis, the creation of new bone just can't keep up as the old bone breaks down. This leaves osteoporosis patients with bones so weak and brittle that they can break during a simple fall, or even with small stresses like bending over.
The disease affects both men and women of all races, but it is most common in women of white and Asian descent who are past menopause. The disease is preventable, though. WebMD notes that by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising, you can significantly reduce your risk of being affected. 
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Risk Factors
While osteoporosis is a preventable disease, the Mayo Clinic says there are some risk factors you can't change, like your gender and age, that put you at a greater risk. On the other hand, there are lifestyle choices that can greatly affect your chances of developing the bone disease, so it's important to understand where you land on this spectrum.
According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors of osteoporosis fall into the following categories:
Unchangeable Risks
- Sex: Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Age: As you get older, your risk for osteoporosis rises.
- Family history: Having a family history of osteoporosis puts you at a greater risk for developing the disease.
- Body frame: Both men and women who have smaller frames have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because they might have less bone mass.
Hormones
- Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much, or too little, of certain hormones. 
- For women, lowered estrogen levels, which usually occurs around menopause, puts them at a greater risk.
- For men, a gradual reduction of testosterone as they age can also trigger osteoporosis.
- Thyroid problems, like too much of the thyroid hormone, can cause bone loss.
- Overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands have also been linked to osteoporosis.
Diet
- Low calcium intake over a lifetime can affect the development of osteoporosis.
- Eating disorders also put people at a greater risk of osteoporosis because proper nutrients don't get to the bones.
- Gastrointestinal surgery, which reduces the size of the stomach, limits the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed.
Steroids and Some Medications
- Long-term use of corticosteroid medications interferes with how your body rebuild's your bones.
- Medications that are used to treat seizures, gastric reflux, cancer and transplant rejections can also increase osteoporosis risk.
Lifestyle Choices
- Those who aren't active and who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. 
- Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to the risk.
- Smoking tobacco causes weaker bones.
Symptoms 
WebMD says people often don't realize they have osteoporosis until they have a fracture. But there are some symptoms that can alert you to the bone disease, including:
- Backache
- A gradual loss of height and poor posture
- Fractures in the spine, wrist or hip
Lower Your Risk of Osteoporosis 
While osteoporosis can be linked to your sex, family history and even your body type, the Mayo Clinic says you can lower your risk of osteoporosis by:
- Getting proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D, which are essential to bone health.
- Exercising, which is a proven method to improve bone strength and even slow bone loss. The Mayo Clinic suggests combining strength-training exercises with weight-bearing exercises.
Treatment 
If you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are an array of medications and treatments to help manage the disease. Depending on how far the osteoporosis has progressed, you may be prescribed medication, but if it's still early on, your doctor might focus on lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. Here are a few ways osteoporosis is treated, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Bisphosphonates: These drugs prevent bone loss and are used in both men and women with osteoporosis.
- Hormone therapy: This can be effective in treating osteoporosis since hormones play a major part in the onset of the disease. Women might be given estrogen, for example, but it's important to discuss this thoroughly with your doctor, because increased estrogen levels can also cause complications like blood clots.
- Dietary changes: These include adding more calcium and vitamin D to your diet.
- Exercise: Increased physical activity has proven to help increase bone density and slow bone loss.
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Share this article to let those around you know the dangers and factors that put you at increased risk for osteoporosis. 
Resources WebMD and Mayo Clinic
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