Health Issues That Put You at Risk for Bone Thinning
8. Women only: Your periods are irregular or infrequent.
Low levels of estrogen are typically responsible for missed periods or a cycle that starts and stops. Unfortunately, low estrogen contributes directly to bone loss, so women who aren't regular may find their bones are irregular too. Low estrogen can be caused by an eating disorder, overexercising, or polycystic ovary disease (PCOS).
What you can do: If your periods are irregular and you're not underweight, talk to your doctor. You may have a hormone-related condition such as polycystic ovary disease (PCOS), which is easily treatable. Your doctor may put you on low-dose birth control pills, for example, which is an easy fix for irregular periods and the hormonal disruptions that may be behind them.
9. You have a first- or second-degree relative who had osteoporosis before the age of 50 or before menopause.
Family history is a major indicator that your bones are weakening. If you come from a family where the older adults have a history of fractures, poor posture, or loss of height, chances are your family members had osteoporosis, whether or not it was ever diagnosed. And if they had it, it's likely you do too.
What you can do: Compile a family health history by talking to your parents, grandparents, and anyone else privy to family information. If you had relatives who suffered from osteoporosis, tell your doctor. If you're younger and your doctor has been resisting requests for a bone scan, this information will aid you in your quest, as doctors take family history seriously.
10. You're Caucasian or Asian, female, and over 50.
Just one of these risk factors makes it more likely your bones are thinning. If all three are true for you, there's a good chance your bones are at risk for fracture.
But African-American women also have reason to be concerned. A recent study showed that low bone mass is much more common than once believed in all ethnic groups, including African-Americans.
If you're 60, 70, or beyond, pay even more attention. Bone-thinning risk increases with age; osteoporosis experts estimate that after the age of 75, 90 percent of women will suffer a fracture.
What you can do: You can't change any of the racial, gender, or age factors that make you who you are. But knowing which risk category you fall into can help you be more aware of the state of your bones and advocate for yourself with your doctor. If you're over age 50 and tests show that your bones are weakening, your doctor may prescribe a biphosphonate drug or estrogen replacement therapy to build your bone strength.