While many people believe bone to be static once they reach adulthood, it is actually considered a tissue which is constantly changing and renewing itself. During youth, bones grow in size and strength as the body manufactures more bone tissue. After age 30, bone degeneration starts to overtake replacement and bone is gradually lost. Unfortunately for women who have less bone mass than men, their rate of bone loss is considerably greater especially at menopause when estrogen levels begin to drop.
People in the high risk category include: post-menopausal women; tall women (over 5'6") or those with a thin, small-boned frame; a family history of broken bones or stooped posture, especially on mother's side; menopause before age 45, either naturally or from surgical removal of the ovaries; low estrogen levels as a result of women with lack of menses, secondary to marked exercise or very low body fat (these states are associated with low estrogen); advanced age; a diet low in calcium; an inactive lifestyle; Caucasian or Asian heritage, cigarette smoking; excessive use of alcohol; prolonged use of certain medications including glucocorticoids such as prednisone to treat asthma and arthritis, certain anti-cancer drugs; excessive thyroid hormone and some anti-seizure medications.
People who are concerned about osteoporosis should consult their physician and request a bone density test. This simple, painless test measures bone mass using a small amount of radiation to determine the thickness of the bones in the hip, spine and wrist. Using this information, a physician can evaluate bone density and make the appropriate recommendations to treat or prevent the disease.