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What Causes Osteoporosis? And Why?

Think you know what causes osteoporosis? Think again -- some of the causes may surprise you.

Causes of Osteoporosis: Medical Conditions

A host of medical conditions can lead to bone loss, from genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis to digestive diseases to the tumors called multiple myeloma, which infiltrate bones with abnormal cells. Abnormal calcium excretion also contributes to bone loss. "Some people just don't trap calcium like they should," says Mystkowski, "and they excrete it through the urine at the expense of the bone."

Causes of Osteoporosis: Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol can arrest bone remodeling and increase your calcium loss. Being tipsy increases the risk of falling, and with osteoporosis, that means you're risking a fracture.

The good news in all this? Your bone health is largely in your control. Many of the causes of osteoporosis are lifestyle factors you can change -- like getting plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and weight-bearing exercise to build strong bones. If bone loss is still a problem, ask your doctor about what you can do to correct any hormone imbalances or other medical causes of bone loss.

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Reviewed on April 27, 2009
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Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

How do you exercise for strong bones?