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Risk Factors

From the National Institutes of Health's Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases — National Resource Center

Certain risk factors are linked to the development of osteoporosis and contribute to a person's likelihood of developing the disease. Many people with osteoporosis have several risk factors, but others who develop the disease have no known risk factors. Some risk factors cannot be changed, but you can change others.

Risk Factors You Cannot Change
  • Gender — Your chances of developing osteoporosis are greater if you are a woman. Women have less bone tissue and lose bone faster than men because of the changes that happen with menopause.


  • Age — The older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis. Your bones become thinner and weaker as you age.


  • Body size — Small, thin women are at greater risk.


  • Ethnicity — White and Asian women are at highest risk. African American and Hispanic women have a lower but significant risk.


  • Family history — Fracture risk may be due, in part, to heredity. People whose parents have a history of fractures also seem to have reduced bone mass and may be at risk for fractures.
Risk Factors You Can Change
  • Sex hormones — Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea), low estrogen level (menopause), and low testosterone level in men can bring on osteoporosis.


  • Anorexia nervosa — Characterized by an irrational fear of weight gain, this eating disorder increases your risk for osteoporosis.


  • Calcium and vitamin D intake — A lifetime diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss.


  • Medication use — Long-term use of certain medications, such as glucocorticoids and some anticonvulsants can lead to loss of bone density and fractures.


  • Lifestyle — An inactive lifestyle or extended bed rest tends to weaken bones


  • Cigarette smoking — Smoking is bad for bones as well as the heart and lungs.


  • Drinking alcohol — Too much alcohol increases the risk of bone loss and broken bones.
Last updated October 4, 2010




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