Dr Caitlin: The Risk Factors For Osteoporosis

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Dr Caitlin O’Connor of Tralee Medical Centre in St Brendan’s Park on Osteoporosis…

Osteoporosis means porous bones. It is a silent disease that is usually not diagnosed until a fracture/s (broken bone/s) occurs.

Bone is a living tissue that is constantly being removed and replaced. As we get older, more bone is naturally lost than is replaced, but people with Osteoporosis lose more bone than people who do not have the disease. This causes bones to become fragile and therefore they break easily e.g. through a minor bump or fall.

One in 5 men and 1 in 2 women over 50 will develop a fracture due to Osteoporosis in their lifetime.

If you have one fragility (low trauma) fracture, this doubles your risk of another fracture due to Osteoporosis.

Osteopenia is the early stage of Osteoporosis. Having osteopenia places a person at risk of developing Osteoporosis. A diagnosis of osteopenia is a warning that you must start taking care of your bones and that prevention methods need to be put in place.

Who gets Osteoporosis?

The risk factors for developing osteoporosis:

Genetic – Family History: Research shows that 60% of a person’s bone is influenced by genetics, especially in laying down the amount of bone during childhood.

Steroids: Increase bone loss, especially during the first six months of treatment.

Past or present eating disorder: These include Anorexia, Bulimia or frequent dieting.

Impaired mobility (bed bound or wheelchair) for 6 weeks or longer

Multiple Sclerosis


If daily amounts of calcium, vitamin D and protein are not met, bone loss may occur. Increased intestinal motility (diarrhoea) can affect hormones, which can affect bone.

High Caffeine Intake
Increased calcium excretion in urine, can cause the body to take calcium from the bone.

Low daily Calcium intake
If a person is not getting enough calcium in their daily diet, the body will start to take it from bone. Calcium is also important for the normal working of muscles and nerves.

Vitamin D
You need Vitamin D to absorb Calcium, low levels of vitamin D can result in high parathyroid hormone levels, which can increase bone loss.

Increased risk of bone loss due to toxins which can affect bone.

Excessive Alcohol
May cause dietary and liver problems and low levels of sex hormones, which can affect bone.

Coeliac disease
Due to the problem with absorption, bone loss can occur.

Bone development
It is important to look after your bones no matter what your age. While 90% of adult bone is laid down by the age of 17, bone continues to grow in strength up until the mid-thirties. After this, it is natural to lose a small amount of bone each year.

This is accelerated in women after the menopause when the protective effect of oestrogen is lost. However, calcium, Vitamin D and regular exercise help maintain bone strength and minimise bone loss.

The easiest way to obtain this is through the regular consumption of milk, cheese and yogurt i.e. 3 servings each day from the milk group of foods. Teenagers and pregnant women need five servings each day.

A serving is equal to:

• A glass of milk
• An ounce {matchbox size} of cheese
• A carton of yogurt

Teenagers in particular need 5 servings of calcium each day to meet the requirement for growth and development.

Tips to boost calcium intake
Dairy products are extremely versatile and can be included in the diet in many ways. Cooking does not destroy calcium, so it could not be easier to get your recommended number of servings each day. Serving suggestions include
• A bowl of breakfast cereal with milk
• Cheese on crackers or toasted cheese sandwich
• Fruit salad with yogurt
• A slice of pizza or lasagne
• A fruit smoothie or milkshake A frothy cappuccino or mug of hot chocolate
• Baked potato with grated cheese
Irish Osteoporosis Society 2010
Address: 12 Burlington Road, Garden Level, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Telephone: Lo-call 1890 252 751 Fax: +353 (0)1 668 0098
Email:  info@irishosteoporosis.ie

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