Heredity and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is, in fact, a disease. It is characterized by a loss in bone density, mass and strength, which lead to bones becoming more fragile and vulnerable to fracture.

Unfortunately there are usually no symptoms of the disease. Doctors have not yet named a cause for the incidence of osteoporosis. There have however been several risk factors identified. Some of these factors are beyond our control.

Osteoporosis can affect anyone, men and women of all ages and ethnicities. Those who are most afflicted are postmenopausal Caucasian women.

Bone mass has been identified as the single most important factor in determining osteoporosis risk. Research has shown that up to seventy five percent of peak bone mass is determined by heredity. Peak bone mass is the maximum amount of bone mass that a person can reach in their lifetime. Gender and Race are also important determinants of bone mass.

Family History Important

Until recently it was commonly thought that only women got osteoporosis and so if it was hereditary that only women could pass it on. Research has shown that like with so many other chronic conditions that family history plays a large role in determining risk for osteoporosis and fracture.

Studies have concluded that up to thirty percent of men and forty five percent of women who have osteoporosis have a family history of the condition. If a woman has a daughter and has suffered a hip fracture, her daughter is twice as likely to suffer one as well.

Siblings of those who have osteoporosis are six times more likely to have low bone mass, a precursor to osteoporosis. It has also been shown that around five percent of fathers and thirty percent of mothers of affected women have osteoporosis. So if someone has a family history of osteoporosis, whether it is a mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or grandparent that has or has had osteoporosis or fractures then there is a significant increase in risk.

Its Not Your Fault

You may not be able to prevent osteoporosis if it runs in your family. Even if all measures are taken to promote optimal bone health your family history may be the likely factor in getting osteoporosis or suffering from fracture. So you may not be to blame if you get osteoporosis but that does not mean that preventative measures should not be taken.

If there is a family history of osteoporosis it is vitally important to promote good bone health early in life. Things to look for when determining hereditary risks of getting osteoporosis are adult family members with low body weight, a history of broken bones after the age of thirty five or instances of fracture from minor falls or injuries.

Loss of height can also occur from osteoporosis as well as a stooped posture, called dowagers hump caused by fractures of the vertebrae. If a family member has been diagnosed or has had a bone density scan and been told they have low bone mass that information is helpful in risk assessment and determining what, if any preventative treatments are needed.