Alcoholics’ Increased Risk of Osteoporosis

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a reduction in bone density. Bones get smaller and weaken, putting people with the condition at a greatly elevated risk of breaks and fractures. Osteoporosis in older people is a serious health risk, often causing reductions in mobility and pain and broken bones after falls.

44 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis.
Chronic alcohol consumption increases the risks of osteoporosis.
Studies show that 25 percent of alcoholic men in their 30s, 40s and 50s show low bone density (Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research).

Alcohol causes a reduction in bone health and increases the risks of broken bones by decreasing coordination (alcoholics tend to fall down with greater than normal frequency).

How Does Alcohol Cause Osteoporosis?

Long-term heavy drinking damages bone health in many ways:

Heavy drinking reduces the body’s production of vitamin D, which is needed for calcium uptake.
Heavy drinking can alter hormone levels, decreasing testosterone in men and estrogen in women. A reduction in either of these hormones is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.
Alcoholics often have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is harmful to bone health.
Alcohol increases the body’s production of parathyroid hormone, which decreases calcium levels.

What’s the Solution?

The solution to alcohol-related bone density losses is to stop consuming the substance that is causing the problem. Alcoholics who quit drinking tend to experience increased bone health, and in some cases, lost bone is even re-grown.

Other measures that can help include:

Weight-bearing exercise
Quitting smoking (smoking is also harmful to bone health)
Eating well (concentrating on getting sufficient vitamin D and calcium each day. Calcium is found in dairy products and green leafy vegetables.)

Source: The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases