Osteoporosis Risk factors

Medically Reviewed By : Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 


The name ‘osteoporosis’ literally means ‘bones with holes’ or also called ‘porous (spongy) bones’. It weakens your bones to the point that they can break easily. It basically occurs when your bones lose calcium more rapidly, that your body also cannot replace them at that rate. So, this is the reason why they become less dense, lose strength and break easily.

Osteoporosis has a nickname called ‘silent disease’–which means people who develop it may not notice that they have osteoporosis until a bone breaks. The fractures caused by osteoporosis mostly occur on the wrist, hips and spine. It mainly affects women who are in their menopause phase and men are also affected up to some extent.

risk factors for osteoporosis

Risk factors of osteoporosis

Women are more at risk/prone to osteoporosis compared to men because their bones are smaller and less dense than male bones. The risk for osteoporosis increases during the menopause phase as the levels of oestrogen steadily decline. 

The major risk factors of osteoporosis include:

1.As you get older, your bone strength decreases, your bones become less dense and thinner and age is considered as one of the greatest risk factors of osteoporosis. When you are in your 30’s, your bones break down faster than they usually do and your body can’t replace them at that speed and this leads to more prone to breakage.

2.There’s something interesting that you need to know! Men who are in their 50’s are more likely at risk for osteoporosis related fractures than to get prostate cancer. 

3.Women in menopause or post-menopausal women are at more risk of developing osteoporosis due to the change in hormone levels. A rapid bone loss will be seen in the first 10 years after entering the menopause as it slows down the production of oestrogen which protects against excessive bone loss leading to osteoporosis.

4.Being an Asian or Caucasian (North-American)woman, you must be cautious of acquiring  osteoporosis since the risk of developing the disease is also linked to ethnicity.  Studies show that Asian or Caucasian women are likely to develop osteoporosis. But it doesn’t mean other ethnicities are safe. African-American and Hispanic women are also at risk for osteoporosis to some extent. They are more likely to die as a result of hip fracture than White women.

5.Skinny and petite(small) people are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis than those who have more body weight because they have less bone to lose. 

6.Having a family history increases your risk for osteoporosis. You are more  likely to develop the disease if your parents or grandparents have experienced any fracture after a minor fall.

7.Some medical conditions may increase your risk for osteoporosis. There are few medical conditions that you should be cautious of, because some of them are related to irregular hormone levels so you should consult your doctor and consider early diagnosis.

8.The medications you take may cause side effects that may damage your bone and lead to osteoporosis but not all the medications may show side effects.

Some medications like steroids, medications for treating seizures, breast cancer may cause side effects which may lead to osteoporosis. Consult your physician or pharmacist to know about the effect of medications on your bones.

Other risk factors of osteoporosis may include:

You can control some of these osteoporosis risk factors like eating habits–anorexia or bulimia and intake of calcium and vitamin D containing foods, lifestyle changes, smoking and alcohol consumption. You can discuss these issues with your physician and help you with it.

How common is osteoporosis?

Around 200 million people worldwide are estimated to have osteoporosis. Studies have shown that around 54 million people are affected by osteoporosis in the United States. 

Women are 4 times more likely than men to suffer from osteoporosis. Approximately, 2 million men suffer from osteoporosis in the United States and an additional 12 million men are thought to be at risk. Every year around 2 million cases of osteoporosis related fractures are seen worldwide and this number continues to grow.

It’s kind of scary, isn’t it? But don’t you worry! There’s some good news for you. You can’t prevent all the risk factors of osteoporosis but you can prevent and control some of them by getting an early diagnosis, lifestyle modifications and getting treated early.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

As I mentioned earlier, in most of the cases osteoporosis does not show any signs and symptoms and this is why most of the people don’t know they have the condition until they have a fracture. 

However, it does increase the risk of some serious fractures and you should watch out for the following:

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Steps for diagnosing osteoporosis is as follows:

How can I get treated for osteoporosis?

There’s no cure for osteoporosis but there are few treatment options which can help you to protect and strengthen your bones. Treatment options for osteoporosis may include medications and lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes include increasing the intake of calcium and vitamin D, also weight-bearing exercises (strengthening exercises).

1. Intake of calcium and vitamin D:

There are certain nutrients that you should include in your diet which helps you to strengthen your bones and the most important are calcium and vitamin D.Calcium helps in strengthening your bones whereas your body needs vitamin D to absorb the calcium. The recommended amount of calcium is 1000-1200 mg/daily. It can be taken as a supplement or included in diet form. Too much calcium intake can lead to kidney stones.

People with osteoporosis should consume 600-800 international units of supplemental vitamin D everyday. People living with osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency may need higher doses.  Foods rich in vitamin D may include cereals, dairy products, fortified food, fatty fish and fish liver oils.

2. Weight-bearing exercises:

Eating the right food is not the only way to strengthen your bones or control osteoporosis. Exercise plays an important role in osteoporosis management, especially weight-bearing exercises. For example:

But, exercises such as swimming will not help you gain bone strength but it can help increase your core strength and help reduce the risk of falls. These exercises will cause your muscles to push and pull against your bones and strengthen your bones. It not only helps in increasing your bone strength but also helps you to avoid falls.

3. Medications for osteoporosis:

Most of the medications are used for both prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and the most frequently used medications are bisphosphonates which are helpful in treating  and preventing all types of osteoporosis. It helps in preventing bone fractures and bone loss. It is considered as the first line therapy for osteoporosis. Other medications may include:

How can I prevent osteoporosis?

As I said before, it is not possible to control all the risk factors of osteoporosis, but you can take some preventive measures to avoid getting affected by osteoporosis.

Some of the best ways you can do to prevent osteoporosis may include:

Beware, take care!

We all know that there’s no cure for osteoporosis and there are many risk factors associated with it. It can lead to fractures and may lead to other complications.

So, if you don’t want osteoporosis to ruin your life, please be aware of your diet, lifestyle, fractures and falls. Even though you can’t control all the osteoporosis risk factors, you can still prevent and control it to some extent by doing weight-bearing exercises, following a healthy diet and lifestyle modifications.

But if you experience any kind of minor fall or a fracture, consult your doctor and get an early diagnosis to avoid further complications. Take the best care of your health.