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Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition. It is possible to develop osteoporosis with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing osteoporosis. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk Factors for Women

Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men. This is because they have less bone tissue than men and have a sudden drop in hormones—especially estrogen—at menopause.

Estrogen Deficiencies

Estrogen deficiencies occur as a result of:

  • Menopause—Natural or surgical menopause increases your risk of osteoporosis. The risk of fracture increases significantly after menopause.
  • Amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation before menopause)—Your risk of osteoporosis increases if you miss menstrual periods for 3 months or longer. Amenorrhea may occur with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, or with excessive or intensive exercise, such as long distance running.

Risk Factors for Men

Men have a higher bone density and lose calcium at a slower rate than women. However, after age 50, bone loss gradually increases. Risk factors for bone loss in men include:

Hormonal Deficiencies

In men, deficiencies of testosterone and, to a much minor extent, estrogen play a role in the development of osteoporosis. This may be related to:

  • Advanced age
  • Treatment for prostate cancer, which lowers testosterone levels
  • Hypogonadism, a severe deficiency in the male sex hormone

Risk Factors in Both Sexes    TOP


The risk of osteoporosis increases with age. Bone loss increases, while bone building decreases.


Having a family history of osteoporosis, especially hip fracture, puts you at a higher risk. Genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, glycogen storage diseases, or homocystinuria also play a role in higher osteoporosis risk.

Dietary Factors

Your risk of developing osteoporosis increases if you have a restrictive diet, such as not getting enough calories, calcium or vitamin D. An excess of phosphorous in your diet, usually from colas, may increase your risk if your calcium and/or vitamin D intakes are low. Excessive alcohol use, coffee, or tea may also increase your risk of osteoporosis.

Lack of Exercise

Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing and resistance exercise, helps strengthen bones. Therefore, if you do not exercise on a regular basis, you may increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Individuals who do not exercise regularly also tend to have weaker muscles and poorer balance, which can lead to falls and fractures.


Smoking impairs bone, muscle, and joint health. If you smoke, you have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Bone Structure and Body Weight

Small-boned women and underweight people of both sexes have an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Lack of Sunlight

The effect of sun on the skin is a primary source of vitamin D, which aids bone formation. If you get very little sun exposure and have a low dietary intake of vitamin D, you may be at increased risk of osteoporosis.

Ethnic Background

Caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than those of other ethnic groups. Though most ethnic studies have focused on women, it is believed that men in these ethnic groups carry a parallel but lower risk.


The long-term use of certain medications increases your risk of osteoporosis. Examples include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Medications to suppress the immune system
  • Chemotherapy
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone
  • Antidepressants
  • Antiseizure medications
  • Medications containing aluminum, such as antacids
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Long-term heparin therapy
  • Glitazones, medications to treat diabetes

Talk to your doctor before stopping or reducing your medications.

Chronic Diseases

Certain chronic conditions may increase your risk for developing osteoporosis.

Gastrointestinal conditions include:

Endocrine or hormonal conditions include:

Other disorders include:



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Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015


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