We already know that if you’re a woman, you’re at high risk for osteoporosis. Women make up a whopping 80 percent of people in the U.S. who suffer from the condition. Hopefully, you’re already doing what you can to ward off this disease: eating right, working out, and laying off the bad stuff (salt, alcohol, tobacco). But you may want to look at your risk factors so you can better understand where you are and what you can do.
• First, what’s your family background? Women with Asian and Caucasian backgrounds are at higher risk than Hispanic and African-American women. You should also look at your family history. Like many conditions, osteoporosis tends to run in families; so take the time to assess your family’s medical history. Look through family photo albums and then follow up with as many relatives as you can. You can then share this information with the whole family.
• Another factor that's beyond our control is body type. Science proves there is such a thing as being too thin. Small-framed women are at greater risk for bone loss because they have less bone to lose when they get older. Women who have suffered from eating disorders like anorexia are also more likely to get osteoporosis. Eating disorders stunt bone development, especially since they usually strike during those critical adolescent years, when bones develop most quickly.
• Lactose intolerance or a vegan diet can lead to a low calcium intake. Calcium is the most critical nutrient for bone strength. Whether it’s a lifestyle choice or a condition, those who cut out dairy consumption must make extra efforts get this nutrient in their diet.
• It’s not exactly clear why, but smoking is also said to weaken bones.
• A sedentary lifestyle is also a major risk. Not only does it mean you’re not getting the exercise you need for strong bones, but it likely comes with another bad habit, poor diet.
Thanks to supplements, medications, and access to information, we have more control over these factors than before. It’s also a good idea to get a bone density test to see where you stand right now.