Osteoporosis: When does it start?
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Osteoporosis: When does it start?

researched and written by the ProjectAWARE group, 2001

Once thought to be a natural part of aging among women, osteoporosis is no longer considered age- or gender-dependent. It occurs in all populations and at all ages. Starting in midlife, both men and women experience an age-related decline in bone density. However, women experience more rapid bone loss in the early years following menopause, which places them at earlier risk for fractures. In men, hypogonadism is also an important risk factor. Men and perimenopausal women with osteoporosis more commonly have secondary causes for the bone loss than do postmenopausal women.33

Reduction in estrogen production with menopause is the major cause of bone density loss during later life. Timing of menarche, absent or infrequent menstrual cycles, and the timing of menopause influence both the attainment of peak bone mass and the preservation of bone density.33

The dramatic aging-related decline in DHEA is seen by some as the main reason bone density begins to decrease long before menopause.14

Normally there is a decrease in bone mass after the age of 35-40. In persons with osteoporosis, bone loss is characterized by accelerated loss of calcium from bones without sufficient replacement.23 Many women mistakenly believe that osteoporosis is something they need be concerned about only after menopause; however, recent evidence indicates that osteoporosis often begins early in life and is not exclusively a postmenopausal problem.3

The percentage of women who have osteopenia (a bone density that is somewhat low) depends on age and race and use of hormones. By definition, 16% of white women aged 20-29 have osteopenia, and less than 1% have osteoporosis. Currently about 38% of women aged 65 have osteopenia and 20% have osteoporosis. By age 80 only 15% of women still have normal bone density, and those with osteopenia are above average for their age.6

The bone mass attained early in life is perhaps the most important determinant of life-long skeletal health.33 One doctor says "A woman has lost half of all the spongy bone (spine, wrist) she’ll ever lose by the age of 50, but very little of the dense (hip, hand, forearm) bone. Attention to bone formation at every stage of life is vital; there is no time when you are too old to create healthy new bone." 45

If exercise and calcium-rich foods have been and are presently part of your lifestyle, you may have lost only a little bone mass. If you are sedentary and regularly ingest foods that interfere with calcium absorption (such as coffee, soda pop, alcohol, white flour products, processed meats, nutritional yeast, and bran, oxalic acid and phytates, phosphorus) you may have lost a lot.45

Next: Risk Factors for Osteoporosis & Fracture






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The Whole Story

Jump to any aspect, or read all the parts of this segment.
What is osteoporosis?
When does it start?
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis & Fracture
Diagnostic Tests
Improving & Maintaining Bone Health
Foods, Herbs & Supplements at a Glance






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Updated 05/16/2010