How does osteoporosis affect your bones?

Your skeleton is one organ that's constantly changing. As you get older, this process becomes more and more unbalanced, and can possibly result in osteoporosis.

Healthy bones and bone health
Healthy Bone

Healthy bones are not as porous as bones with osteoporosis. The remodeling process maintains bone density to keep them strong.

Throughout your life, your bones undergo a remodeling process where old bone is broken down and new bone is formed to replace it. In young women, hormones such as estrogen regulate this process and maintain bone density. While bone loss happens progressively with aging, it accelerates when women go through menopause and produce less estrogen.

Bones affected by osteoporosis
Bone With Osteoporosis

Bones affected by osteoporosis have lower density or strength. Because the remodeling process is off-balance, bones become fragile and more likely to break.

As your body's natural remodeling process becomes unbalanced with age, osteoporosis is more likely to occur. Old bone continues to be broken down, but with osteoporosis, there is less new bone being built to replace it. This results in low bone density, leaving bones fragile and more likely to fracture.

Menopause and Osteoporosis

Estrogen significantly affects the rate of bone loss, which is why osteoporosis is most common in postmenopausal women. Estrogen helps regulate the bone remodeling process. However, as women go through menopause, estrogen levels decline. This impacts the balance of bone-removing cells and bone-building cells.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Trauma Fracture

There are many risk factors that can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Some are out of your control, such as:

  • Gender

    Osteoporosis is more common in women

  • Age

    As you get older, your risk for osteoporosis increases

  • Body size

    Small, thin women are at greater risk for osteoporosis

  • Ethnicity

    White and Asian women have the highest risk for osteoporosis

  • Family history

    If a biological family member has osteoporosis or breaks a bone, it's more likely that you will too

Trauma Fracture

However, there are some risk factors that you can control, such as:

  • Calcium and vitamin D intake

    You're more prone to bone loss if your diet is low in calcium and vitamin D

  • Medication use

    Some medications may increase the risk of osteoporosis. Ask the doctor who prescribes your medications if this is the case

  • Activity level

    Lack of exercise can weaken bones

  • Smoking

    Cigarettes can affect many parts of the body, including your bones

  • Alcohol

    Too much alcohol consumption can cause bone loss and broken bones

This worksheet may help you better understand your risk factors. Fill it out with your doctor to ensure you're doing all you can for your bones.

The biggest risk factor for bone loss in women over 50 is menopause.