What Causes Osteoporosis? And Why?

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Your bones are alive and constantly growing — not static, like you see them drawn in books. Bones continually change throughout your life, with some bone cells dissolving and new bone cells growing back in a process called remodeling. With this lifelong turnover of bone cells, you replace most of your skeleton every 10 years.

But for people with osteoporosis — a thinning of the bones — vitamin D can lead to weak bones and increased bone loss. Active thyroid hormone have long been linked to an increase in bone loss. “That’s always been a concern of most physicians,” says Mystkowski, “but if you look at the long-term bone densities of patients who are on high doses of thyroid pills, they’re not dramatically different, and their fracture risk isn’t dramatically different.”

Still, most doctors would agree: anyone on high doses on hormone can benefit from getting regular exercise and taking enough calcium and vitamin D. These lifestyle factors are potent ways to manage your overall fracture risk, along with monitoring bone density with testing.

Causes of Osteoporosis: Smoking

Smokers suffer from lower bone density and a higher risk of fracture than non-smokers. Studies on smoking and bone health have turned up a host of other dire effects, from direct toxic effects of nicotine on bone cells to blocking the body’s ability to use estrogen, calcium, and vitamin D.

Causes of Osteoporosis: Medications

Taking certain may lead to bone loss and an increase in bone fractures. Most common are corticosteroids, also known as cortisone, hydrocortisone, glucocortisoids, and prednisone. These drugs are used to treat , rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, colitis, and a wide range of other conditions. Antiseizure drugs are linked to bone loss, as well.

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.