Osteoporosis Risk Factors

While almost anyone can develop osteoporosis, there are some people who are at a higher risk for the disease than others. In order to protect yourself you should know the factors that can play a role in the development of osteoporosis.

Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?

Here’s a list of the risk factors for osteoporosis:

  • Age: Since your bones weaken as you age, older people are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Alcoholism: For men, alcoholism is one of the leading risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Alcoholism can weaken bones, as excess alcohol consumption interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and reduces bone formation.
  • Bone Structure: People who have small, thin bones are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Body Weight: Women who weigh less than 127 pounds are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Breast Cancer: Postmenopausal women who have had breast cancer and who were treated with chemotherapy or aromatase inhibitors (which suppress estrogen) are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women who had breast cancer and who were treated with tamoxifen aren’t at a higher risk, as tamoxifen can help reduce the risk of bone fractures.
  • Caffeine Consumption: Excessive caffeine consumption may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and may contribute to mineral loss, increasing your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Calcium Intake: People who don’t get enough calcium are at a higher risk for osteoporosis. A calcium deficiency can cause a person to have poor bone density and increases a person’s risk of suffering bone fractures.
  • Depression: People who suffer from serious bouts of depression are more likely to suffer increased rates of bone loss.
  • Eating Disorders: Both women and men who suffer from anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia are at a greater risk of having poor bone density in their lower backs and hips.
  • Family History: Osteoporosis has a genetic link. If you have a sibling or parent who has or who had osteoporosis you are at a greater risk for developing the disease.
  • Lifestyle: People who have sedentary lifestyles tend to have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Exercise, particularly jumping and hopping, help form healthy bones. Since bone development begins in childhood and continues into the adult years, both children and adults should get regular exercise.
  • Menopause/Menstrual History: Normal or early menopause, occurring either naturally or as a result of surgery, increases a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis. Women who stop menstruating before menopause due to conditions such as anorexia or bulimia or who stop menstruating due to excessive exercise may also develop osteoporosis. Interestingly, girls who start menstruating at an earlier than normal age (12 being the average age) are at a lower risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Race: White women and Asian women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Sex: Women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men. This is due to the fact that women tend to have less bone tissue and lose bone mass more rapidly than men due to the hormonal changes associated with menopause.
  • Tobacco Use: Tobacco use can contribute to bone loss. Those who smoke or who chew tobacco are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Use of Medications to Treat Chronic Conditions: Using certain medications to treat such chronic conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, endocrine disorders, seizure disorders and gastrointestinal diseases may damage bones and contribute to osteoporosis.

If you think you are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about osteoporosis prevention methods.

Resources

Mayo Clinic Staff (2006). Osteoporosis: Risk Factors. Retrieved June 15, 2007, from Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoporosis/

National Osteoporosis Foundation (2007). Prevention: Who’s at Risk? Retrieved June 15, 2007, from National Osteoporosis Web site: http://www.nof.org/prevention/risk.htm.