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Osteoporosis And Heredity: Together Forever For Better Or For Worse

Research shows that heredity can put you at risk for osteoporosis... and it can also protect you. So how do you put the odds in your favor?

In 2012, researchers at The Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School) published a paper in Nature Genetics confirming that heredity plays a significant role in the risk for osteoporosis.

The paper identified 56 genetic variants that influence bone mineral density (BMD) and fourteen of the genetic variants were specifically linked to an increased risk of bone fracture.

"We also established that, as compared to women carrying the normal range of genetic factors, women with an excess of BMD-decreasing genetic variants had up to a 56 percent higher risk of having osteoporosis and a 60 percent increased risk for all types of fractures," Dr. Kiel of Harvard Medical School said. The study also identified groups of individuals who had fewer than normal genetic factors linked to BMD issues, something that seems to protect them from developing osteoporosis or sustaining fractures.

The goal of such genome research is to better identify people at high risk for osteoporosis and to develop gene-based treatments for the disease. Additional research is now underway to identify genetic variants associated with fracture risk as half of those who suffer from fractures do not have osteoporosis. (Note that people who take bisphosphonate medication for osteoporosis often suffer from fractures despite improved bone scan results.)

Osteoporosis is an important health issue as women over age 65 are at greater risk of death after a hip fracture than after getting breast cancer. Half of those over age 80 who fracture a hip die within a year of the accident.

The international study involved hundreds of researchers throughout the world who conducted 17 separate studies on the subject of Bone Mineral Density of the spine and hip. The Consortium infrastructure and some of the genotyping resources were funded by the European Union.

If observation of elderly family members suggests that heredity is a risk for you... visit Osteoporosis Treatment Guidelines.