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What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?

It’s important to know your risk for osteoporosis. There are some risk factors you cannot change, but there are some you can change to lower your risk. Risk factors that cannot be changed include:

Genetic predisposition - Osteoporosis appears to run in families. If your mother or grandmother had osteoporosis, your chances of getting it are increased.

Race - Caucasians and Asian women are at greater risk of getting osteoporosis, although Hispanic and African-American women have a significant risk.

Sex and age - Women have a higher risk than men, and bone weakness increases with age.

History of fractures after age 40 - If you have had a fracture in young or middle adulthood, this may show susceptibility to fractures or less dense bones and increase your chance of getting osteoporosis.

Risk factors that can be changed include:

Lack of regular exercise - Exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise, is necessary to stimulate and strengthen bone.

Smoking cigarettes - Women who smoke have lower levels of estrogen compared to nonsmokers and frequently go through menopause earlier.

Being underweight - Small boned women are at greatest risk for osteoporosis.

Heavy alcohol consumption - Another bone-leaching risk factor that can lead to early fractures. Alcohol’s detrimental effect on bone tissue possibly results in reduced bone formation. Mineral and hormonal metabolism can also be impaired with alcohol consumption.

Medications - Certain medications, such as glucocorticoids, thyroid medication, anticonvulsants, and antacids containing aluminum, increase your risk. Medications used to treat endometriosis (gonadotropin-releasing hormones or GnRH) also increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Low calcium in diet - Because bones need calcium to stay strong, low dietary calcium results in less dense bones.

Menopause - Bone losses increases dramatically with the reduction of the hormone estrogen at menopause. Using a combination of lifestyle changes and medications, if necessary, you can stop this loss from happening altogether.
Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that you schedule a bone density test if you're at high risk for osteoporosis -- risk factors include being a woman age 65 or older, a man age 70 or older, and breaking a bone after minimal trauma if you're age 50 or older. You're also at risk if you take medications that cause bone loss, such as prednisone (Deltasone, Liquid Pred).
The chances are greater than 50 percent that by the time you reach age 50, you either already have osteoporosis or are at increased risk. Bone fractures associated with osteoporosis can result in lasting disabilities. Other risk factors include a history of fractures as an adult, a family history of osteoporosis or fractures, low body weight, smoking, low intake of calcium or vitamin D, use of alcohol, lack of exercise, estrogen deficiency, use of certain medications and race and ethnicity (Caucasians, Hispanics and Asians are more likely to develop osteoporosis).
Risk factors for osteoporosis can be separated into risk factors that can be changed and those that cannot. Risk factors that cannot be changed are being of a Caucasian race, taking long-term steroids for a chronic disease, early menopause or early hysterectomy or a family history of osteoporosis. Some risk factors that can be modified are being of a very slight build or very thin and being inactive, especially not doing any weight-bearing activity such as walking or lifting weights.

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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.