Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Osteoporosis Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Your Risk for Osteoporosis and Bone Fractures

By
WebMD Feature

When most of us think of the "brittle bone disease" known as osteoporosis, we picture a frail older woman with a broken hip or stooped shoulders. But you can't tell if someone has osteoporosis just by looking at them. Doctors need to review your personal and family history, your habits, as well as a bone density test to find your personal risk.

"It could be an elderly lady, a man, or a younger woman who is fine, but is 5 feet tall and weighs 93 pounds," says Ethel S. Siris, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Recommended Related to Osteoporosis

The Truth About Vitamin D: Can You Get Too Much Vitamin D?

Can I get too much vitamin D? Too much of any good thing is a bad thing. Too much vitamin D can cause an abnormally high blood calcium level, which could result in nausea, constipation, confusion, abnormal heart rhythm, and even kidney stones. It's nearly impossible to get too much vitamin D from sunlight or from foods (unless you take way too much cod liver oil). Nearly all vitamin D overdoses come from supplements. The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board's old 1997 recommendations...

Read the The Truth About Vitamin D: Can You Get Too Much Vitamin D? article > >

Osteoporosis develops when our bodies don't build new bone as quickly as they remove old bone. Bones become weak and brittle and are more likely to fracture or break.

Some fractures happen when you take a big fall, while others can follow something as harmless as a hug or just bending over. Fractures due to osteoporosis are most common in the spine and hip.

What Raises Your Risk for Osteoporosis?

  • Early menopause and no use of supplemental estrogen
  • Family history of a hip fracture or osteoporosis
  • History of anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder, or a low body weight
  • Hormone treatment for prostate cancer
  • Older age
  • Past bone fractures
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), some digestive illnesses, and certain other diseases
  • Smoking
  • Steroid medicine use for a long time (for asthma or other conditions)
  • Three or more alcoholic drinks per day

"When an older woman or man has a fracture, we must see if they have low bone mass or osteoporosis," says Siris. This is the biggest red-flag warning that more fractures can follow.

When Do You Need a Bone Density Test?

A bone density test can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends this X-ray for:

  • All women 65 and older
  • Younger women who have risk factors for osteoporosis
  • Men 70 and older
  • Men 50-69 with risk factors for osteoporosis

Some doctors use the FRAX formula (Fracture Risk Assessment Tool) to estimate your chance of breaking a bone within the next 10 years. It adds up past fractures, gender, smoking, alcohol use, and sometimes bone density test results in the hip, as well as other factors.

"As we age, we lose bone mass, and this puts everybody at risk for fracture," says Silvina Levis-Dusseau, MD, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

But it doesn't have to be this way. People think osteoporosis is a part of aging that you can't avoid, but that is wrong, says Levis-Dusseau.

Protect yourself and your bones, she says. "Live a healthy lifestyle. Consume enough calcium and vitamin D, exercise regularly, don't smoke, and drink in moderation, and have a bone density test."

Reviewed on January 11, 2013
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

thumbnail_man_feeding_woman_strawberry
Slideshow
Managing OAB
Article
 
Vitamin D
Slideshow
osteoporosis overview
Slideshow
 
Lactose Intolerance
Article
Woman holding plate of brocolli
Article
 
Dairy products
Tool
Superfood for Bones
Slideshow
 
Screening Tests for Women
Slideshow
exercise endometrial cancer
Article
 
hand holding medicine
Article
Working Out With Osteoporosis
Video