Osteoporosis Home > Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

You can control some of the risk factors for osteoporosis. For example, you can change your diet, reduce your alcohol consumption, and quit smoking. However, there are some risk factors you cannot control, including gender and ethnicity.

An Overview of Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Certain risk factors are linked to the development of osteoporosis and may contribute to an individual's likelihood of developing the disease. Many people with osteoporosis have several risk factors, but others who develop the disease have no known risk factors. There are some risk factors you can change, and others you cannot.

Risk Factors You Cannot Change

There are a number of risk factors for osteoporosis that you cannot change, including:
  • Gender. Your chances of developing osteoporosis are greater if you are a woman. Women have less bone tissue and lose bone faster than men because of the changes that happen with menopause.
  • Age. The older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis. Your bones become thinner and weaker as you age.
  • Body size. Small, thin-boned women are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis than larger women.
  • Ethnicity. Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest risk of developing the disease. African-American and Hispanic women have a lower, but still significant, risk.
  • Family history. Your risk for fractures may be due, in part, to heredity. People whose parents have a history of fractures also seem to have reduced bone mass and may be at risk for fractures themselves.

Risk Factors You Can Change

The good news is that there are a number of risk factors for osteoporosis you can change, including:
  • Sex hormones. Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea), low estrogen levels (menopause), and low testosterone levels in men can bring on osteoporosis.
  • Anorexia nervosa. Characterized by an irrational fear of weight gain, this eating disorder increases your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Calcium and vitamin D intake. A lifetime diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss.
  • Medication use. Long-term use of glucocorticoids and some anticonvulsants can lead to loss of bone density, which can ultimately result in fractures.
  • Lifestyle. An inactive lifestyle or extended bed rest tends to weaken bones.
  • Cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are bad for the bones as well as the heart and lungs.
  • Alcohol intake. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of bone loss and fractures.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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