How Osteoporosis Can Affect Young Women

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What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. It happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both. A common misconception about osteoporosis is that it is thought to be an "old person's disease." The reality of this disease process is that all the internal and external forces of a patient’s life from when they are an adolescent and a young adult will directly contribute to his or her potential to develop osteoporosis as an adult.


Genetic or constitutional factors can contribute up to 75 percent of peak bone mass by age 30. The most compelling factors are a family history of osteoporosis or fractures (especially on the maternal side).

Gender, race and ethnicity

Other factors include gender—women have higher fracture rates than men, race—Caucasian and Asian populations are at higher risk than African American and Hispanic populations, body size—women with smaller builds or physical frailty, late menarche, or premature menopause occurring before age 45 are at higher risk.


Medications can directly cause bone loss or prevent calcium absorption, which results in decreased bone mass. Although there is no direct evidence that correlates medication-use and the development of osteoporosis, there have been reports that numerous drugs do in fact contribute to decreased bone mass such as corticosteroids, chemotherapy drugs, progesterone, Lithium, heparin, and anticonvulsants.

Chronic conditions

Chronic conditions requiring the extended use of medications facilitate the development of secondary osteoporosis. The most common diseases that have the greatest impact on young women include gastrointestinal diseases (IBD, Celiac disease), endocrine diseases (diabetes, hyperthyroidism), genetic diseases (Cystic Fibrosis), and others, like MS, depression, and anorexia.


Lifestyle or behavioral choices that are associated with increased risk of bone loss include smoking, which is associated with accelerated bone loss and increased risk of hip fracture in the elderly, excessive alcohol intake ( more than 3 drinks per day), and high caffeine intake (more than 330mg per day). Decreased physical activity affects bone mass, too.


Nutritional factors that are a part of a young woman’s lifestyle and have an influence on the development of osteoporosis include low calcium intake, vitamin D deficiency, and high salt intake. Although calcium is essential to bone health, it must appear in conjunction with other nutrients, specifically vitamin D, to be beneficial.


To fight low bone mineral densities which lead to osteoporosis, steps for prevention must start during childhood and continue throughout a person’s lifetime. This includes adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, regular weight-bearing exercise, no smoking, not too much alcohol, and treatment of other inherited risk factors present.