Family History/Heredity

How do I know if osteoporosis runs in my family?

Sharing one’s family history is important. You may be more likely to get osteoporosis if either of your parents have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. If your mother or father has lost more than 1-1/2 inches of height and/or has stooped posture, this may signal a family history of osteoporosis, too. A parental history of broken bones in the spine or hip may increase your risk of osteoporosis, also.

What role does heredity play in the development of osteoporosis?

Some people have a strong genetic tendency to get osteoporosis. There are probably several genes that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. It appears that the genetic tendency to get osteoporosis can be passed through either your mother’s or your father’s family.

Peak bone mass (the highest bone mass that you will ever reach), usually achieved by age 25, is predetermined by your genetics. If you have a strong genetic tendency to get osteoporosis, the peak bone mass that you can reach may be lower than average. On the other hand, if you have parents with strong bones, it is an important factor that increases your chance for strong bones.

Bone mass is the single most important predictor of osteoporosis risk. Gender and race are important determinants of bone mass.

  • Bone mass is generally higher in men than women. It is not surprising then that fewer men than women get osteoporosis.
  • African-Americans tend to have higher bone mass than Caucasians and Asians.
  • Hispanic women tend to have bone mass lower than that of African-Americans but higher than Caucasians or Asians.
  • Scientists are still studying the reasons for gender and racial differences in the development of peak bone mass and osteoporosis.

What can I do if I have a strong genetic tendency to get osteoporosis?

If osteoporosis runs in your family, it may be possible for you to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis or reduce the severity of the disease if you do get it. Throughout life, hormonal balance is important to build strong bones in the growing years and to maintain strong bones in adulthood. For example, regular menstrual periods are necessary for girls and young women to reach their genetic potential for peak bone mass. It is also important for premenopausal women to have regular periods. Women with absent or irregular menstrual periods (except during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menopause) should consult a healthcare provider.The earlier prevention measures are taken, the more impact they will have on reducing future risk of osteoporosis.

Lifestyle choices in youth and young adulthood play a major role in helping you build bone to reach peak bone mass . You can do this by making bone healthy choices including eating a nutrient rich diet that includes plenty of vegetables and fruits, consuming the recommended amount of calcium (preferably from food sources), getting the recommended amount of vitamin D, participating in regular physical activity, avoiding smoking, limiting your intake of alcoholic beverages and avoiding binge drinking.

In adulthood, healthy lifestyle choices will help you to maintain strong bones. Completing a NYSOPEP risk assessment can help you identify your risk for osteoporosis. Choose the appropriate NYSOPEP Osteoporosis Risk Assessment for you, “Osteoporosis Risk Assessment for Postmenopausal Women“, for “Premenopausal Women“or “for Men“. It is important to discuss your risk assessment as well as your family history with your health care provider. After careful review of this information, your health care provider will recommend the appropriate time for you to have a bone density test.

It is never too early or too late to promote stronger bones for life!