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Is There a Genetic Link to Osteoporosis in Women?

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There are an estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, and approximately eight million of these individuals are women[1]. Osteoporosis affects more than thirty percent of women at some point during their lifetime.

The statistics alone are alarming, and research brings new insights into causes, either natural or preventable.

One of the most recent insights is the genetic link to osteoporosis. Knowing more about your body’s overall health is important, and family history completes any holistic picture.

Osteoporosis and Increased Fracture Risk

Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mineral density, increasing your risk of developing low-impact fractures[2]. This type of fracture is more common in women than men, and apart from a link to menopause the cause is currently unknown.

The official diagnosis code of osteoporosis icd 10 M81 indicates age-related osteoporosis without current fractures.

While some bone density is lost each year, the rate increases dramatically in the first five to ten years after menopause. This process continues to break down existing bone tissue faster than it is replaced over the next several years. 

It develops slowly over the course of several years, - osteoporosis back pain could be dismissed as muscular aches - and is often only diagnosed after a fall causes a fracture to occur. The most common injuries associated with this condition are breaks to the bones of the wrist, hip, or spine.

Primary osteoporosis is related to the aging process in conjunction with the fluctuation of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Other diseases or the treatment of these conditions can cause secondary osteoporosis (although more prevalent in men):

Diseases that can cause secondary osteoporosis include:

  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Anorexia
  • Malabsorption
  • Hyperthyroidism (and overtreatment of same)
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Cushing and other diseases that lead to long-term immobilization.  

Additional risk factors include:  

  • smoking
  • a personal history of falls after the age of forty.  
  • Race: more prevalent in those of Asian or Caucasian ancestry.  
  • Recovery from spinal cord injury. 
  • family history of osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, an estimated one in two women over the age of fifty will break a bone due to osteoporosis, and only thirty-three percent of senior women will return to independent living after their recovery. A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to low mineral bone density is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.  

The Genetic Link to Osteoporosis

The genetic factors of osteoporosis may account for as much as eighty-five percent of the risk in postmenopausal women[3]. Osteoporosis is a determined by several genes, each with a role in determining bone mass and other fracture risks[4]. It is rare that osteoporosis occurs as the result of single gene mutations, and more common to be polygenic, or caused by the actions of polygenes – genes which are too small to have an effect by themselves, but can in combination with others. There are many reasons in combination with potential gene mutations that cause this disorder to be more readily observed in women.

Possible attributions to this disparity come from several sources:

  • Patients who have a history of breast cancer may be at higher risk than other female patients.
  • Women also tend to have reduced density and mass in their skeletal structure.  
  • Estrogen sharply decreases at menopause, creating a drastic decrease in bone strength.
Twin studies have shown that genetic factors play an important role in regulating bone density, skeletal geometry, and bone regeneration[5]. This genetic information is determined by the combined effects of several genes and environmental influences, although like noted previously it is possible but unlikely for osteoporosis to be caused by a single gene mutation.

Overall, the combination of genetics, old age, and low bone density are the primary determinants of fracture risk in women. Early warning signs to look out for include receding gums, decreased grip strength, and weak or brittle fingernails.

Testing and Prevention is Key In Mitigating the Onset of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis screening, lifestyle changes and confronting your personal risk factors can provide an increased quality of life.

The World Health Organization established that bone density is measured by “T-score”, which indicates how far your bone density differs from the mean baseline[6]. T-scores are used to assess which of three categories a person fits into: osteopenia, osteoporosis, or normal. You have low bone density or osteopenia if your T-score is between -1.0 and -2.5[7]. T-scores of -1.1, -1.6, and -2.4 are examples. A T-score of -2.5 or less indicates osteoporosis. As bone mineral density decreases, the risk of fracture increases.

A 50-year-old woman with a T-score of -1 has a 16 percent chance of fracturing her hip, a 27 percent chance with a -2 score, and a 33 percent chance with a -2.5 score, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2001.

Bones naturally get weaker with age, certainly, but whether the process accelerates or decelerates depends on you.

Check Your Levels

Work with your health and wellness team to learn more about your body and your risk of developing osteopenia, as well as how to slow bone density loss. Primary care physicians will use osteoporosis x-ray scans for visual analysis, and your holistic healthcare team will perform tests to ensure that all of your systems are functioning properly. Modern testing is a safe and useful tool that provides your doctor with data on your levels that can become the root causes of conditions that may disrupt your lifestyle in the future.

Hormonal imbalance

While there is a link between low estrogen and osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances and fluctuations are also responsible for other unpleasant symptoms like brain fog and bowel distress, both of which can indicate more serious conditions.

Because Health provides accurate testing for imbalances in progesterone, estrogen, FSH and LH. We offer white glove phlebotomy service for specimen collection at home, or you can visit one of our welcoming longevity centers for an on-site test.

Bone loss

The World Health Organization (WHO) has established dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) tests which create a scan of the central skeleton as the best method of assessing bone mineral density. These tests can be completed in only five minutes with minimal exposure to radiation. These scans measure all calcified tissue in the field of view.  A non-invasive, painless bone loss The DEXA density test will determine whether any change in bone density is consistent with your other natural aging markers or if it indicates a serious condition.

Things You Can Do On Your Own

Meanwhile, there are direct, positive lifestyle changes you can make to both slow the natural process of bone density loss.

Don’t smoke: smoking has been directly linked to low bone density in studies.

Fortify your diet: include foods high in calcium, vitamin D -  recent studies also confirmed a Vitamin K osteoporosis link as well.

Reduce/eliminate salt and caffeine: both of these substances leach calcium from your bones.

Drink in moderation: alcohol depletes bone density and puts you at a higher risk of fracture

Weight-bearing exercises: the skeleton is the body's scaffolding - it must bear a reasonable amount of weight

Tai Chi: improves balance and reduces the likelihood of falling

Supplements: maintain recommended levels of vitamin D and calcium (1000-1200mg/daily for calcium and 600-800 IU/daily for vitamin D)

The skeleton serves as the body's armature, supporting all other parts. Work with a holistic healthcare professional to keep all of your body's systems running smoothly and your bones strong enough to support your active lifestyle!

Primary Medical/Scientific Sources:

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