Osteoporosis affects both women and men. Women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men, mainly due to the rapid decline in oestrogen levels after menopause. Oestrogen is an important hormone for maintaining healthy bones. When oestrogen levels decrease, the bones lose calcium (and other minerals) at a much faster rate - bone loss is approximately 1% - 5% per year after menopause.
Men also lose bone as they age, but their bone mass generally remains adequate until much later in life. However, certain risk factors such as reduced calcium intake and low levels of vitamin D, can increase age related bone loss. Although osteoporotic fractures are less common in men than in women, when they occur, these fractures are associated with higher disability and death than in women.
Risk factors for osteoporosis
The following risk factors can increase your chance of developing osteoporosis.
Your family history:
- Any family history of osteoporosis and fractures
Your medical history:
Certain conditions and medications can increase your risk of osteoporosis:
- Cortico-steroids (commonly used for Asthma)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Over-active thyroid or parathyroid glands
- Coeliac disease and other chronic gut conditions
- Chronic liver or kidney disease
The following symptoms may also indicate an increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Lack of libido
- Other symptoms of low testosterone levels
- If your period has stopped for 6-12 consecutive months (excluding pregnancy, menopause or hysterectomy)
- If you experience early menopause
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Diet lacking in calcium
- Lack of sunlight exposure, which may cause vitamin D deficiency
- Sedentary lifestyle over many years
To stop the fracture cascade, it is essential that osteoporotic fractures are identified and treated as quickly as possible.