How does diabetes affect bone health?

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Two more conditions have been added to the long list of diabetes side effects: weak bones and hip fractures. While clues of a link to bone health have been growing, diabetes as a cause of osteoporosis is something many experts didn't see coming.

Now, there's virtually no question that diabetes (types 1 and 2) increases the likelihood of major bone fractures, including hip fractures. Translation: If you have diabetes, you may already need to take bisphosphonates or other bone-strengthening drugs.

  • Be pro-active. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, ask your doc about the new FRAX-diabetes study and whether you need to take bisphosphonates for osteoporosis.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes, get in gear. Not only can you wipe out type 2 symptoms, you can also reverse it altogether by losing pounds and inches, walking, doing strength training and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Dramatic evidence: When obese people have bariatric surgery (like gastric bypass), diabetes goes away 90 percent of the time—and fast.

People with type 1 diabetes seem to be at increased risk of getting osteoporosis. The mechanism is not exactly understood. Some general long-term complications of both types of diabetes, such as nerve damage causing numbness the in feet and poor vision, can make individuals more prone to falls and subsequent fractures in general. To keep your bones healthy, eat a healthy diet (including foods rich in vitamin D and calcium), exercise with focus on weight-bearing types of exercise and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake.

People who have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes are prone to weaker bones. "In people with type 1 diabetes, the quality of the bone they make isn't as good, and there is more bone breakdown," says Diane Schneider, MD, a geriatrician and the author of The Complete Book of Bone Health. "And in people with type 2 diabetes, the bones are more fragile. Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes do not make bone well." Medications for type 2 diabetes can also cause bones to be weaker.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.