What increases my risk for osteoporosis?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

There are many risk factors for osteoporosis. There are some that do not have a clear mechanism for causing osteoporosis, but they still increase your risk. These include being a woman, being older, having a small body frame, having a family history of osteoporosis or having white or Asian ancestry. Fortunately, there are also many factors that increase your risk that you do have control over. These include having an inactive lifestyle, drinking large amounts of alcohol, using tobacco, having eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, not consuming enough calcium and using corticosteroids or other long-term medications. Having too much thyroid hormone, having some conditions (like Crohn's disease) and having certain surgeries, like stomach surgery or weight-loss surgery, also increase your risk for osteoporosis.

Dr. Aruna V. Josyula, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

The older we are, the more we are at risk for osteoporosis. The following are other risk factors for the disease:

  • family history of osteoporosis
  • smoking (current or previous)
  • medical condition, such as hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
  • certain prostate cancer treatments for men
  • chronic use of steroids, such as prednisone
  • excessive alcohol intake

There are several risk factors that raise your chances of developing osteoporosis. Some of these factors are things you can control, while some you can't control.

Factors that you can't control:

  • Being female
  • Having a small, thin body (under 127 pounds)
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Being over 65 years old
  • Being white or Asian, but African American and Hispanic/Latina women are also at risk
  • Not getting your period (if you should be getting it)
  • Having anorexia nervosa
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Long-term use of certain medicines, including: Glucocorticoids—medicines used to treat many illnesses, including arthritis, asthma and lupus; Some antiseizure medicines; Gonadotropin-releasing hormone—used to treat endometriosis; Antacids with aluminum—the aluminum blocks calcium absorption
  • Some cancer treatments
  • Too much replacement thyroid hormone

Factors that you can control:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Experts recommend no more than 1 drink a day for women.
  • A diet low in dairy products or other sources of calcium and vitamin D
  • Not getting enough exercise

You may also develop symptoms that are warning signs for osteoporosis. If you develop the following, you should talk to your doctor about any tests or treatment you may need:

  • Loss in height, developing a slumped or hunched posture or onset of sudden unexplained back pain.
  • You are over age 45 or a post-menopausal and you break a bone.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

You are more likely to have osteoporosis if you are female, elderly, Caucasian or slender, or have had both ovaries removed before menopause. Other factors that might increase the risk of osteoporosis, such as the number of pregnancies, history of lactation (milk production) and consumption of caffeine do not seem to be particularly good indicators of bone mass. Smoking seems to be related to hip fractures but not so much to bone mass.

The risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis depends on your initial bone mass and the rate of bone loss after menopause.


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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.