Risk Factors For Osteoporosis

risk-osteoporosisWhat Are the Causes and Risk Factors For Osteoporosis?

Bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you're young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 20s. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it is created1.

Many risk factors can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Some of these things you cannot change and others you can.

Risk factors you cannot change include:

  • Gender – Women get osteoporosis more often than men.
  • Age – The older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Body size – Small, thin women are at greater risk.
  • Ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk. African-American and Hispanic women have a lower risk.
  • Family history – Osteoporosis tends to run in families. If a family member has osteoporosis or breaks a bone, there is a greater chance that you will too.
  • Frame size – Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.

Risk factors that can be changed include:

  • Sex hormones – Low estrogen levels can cause osteoporosis in women. Alternatively, low testosterone levels can bring on osteoporosis in men.
  • Thyroid problems – Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur if your thyroid is overactive or if you take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid.
  • Anorexia nervosa – This eating disorder can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Calcium and vitamin D intake – A diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss.
  • Medication and steroid use – Some medicines and steroids increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Activity level – A sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, or long-term bed rest can cause weak bones.
  • Smoking – The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn't clearly understood, but researchers do know that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption – Drinking too much alcohol can cause bone loss and broken bones2, 1, 3, 4,-7.

Genetic vs. Environmental Causes

Osteoporosis is caused by a combination of multiple genes and the environment. It is estimated that approximately 62% is due to genetic factors, while the remaining 38% of the risk is due to lifestyle and environmental factors8.

Page References

1. NIAMSD, N. Osteoporosis. [cited 2014 October 30]; Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoporosis.html.
2. NIAMSD. Osteoporosis Overview. 2012 January 2012 [cited 2014 October 30]; Available from: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/overview.pdf.
3. ORBDNRC, N. What Is Osteoporosis? 2011 January 2011 [cited 2014 November 4]; Available from: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/osteoporosis_ff.pdf.
4. Hannan, M.T., et al., Risk factors for longitudinal bone loss in elderly men and women: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. J Bone Miner Res, 2000. 15(4): p. 710-20.
5. Zalloua, P.A., et al., Impact of seafood and fruit consumption on bone mineral density. Maturitas, 2007. 56(1): p. 1-11.
6. Welten, D.C., et al., A meta-analysis of the effect of calcium intake on bone mass in young and middle aged females and males. J Nutr, 1995. 125(11): p. 2802-13.
7. Kanis, J.A., et al., FRAX and the assessment of fracture probability in men and women from the UK. Osteoporos Int, 2008. 19(4): p. 385-97.
8. Karasik, D., et al., Age, gender, and body mass effects on quantitative trait loci for bone mineral density: the Framingham Study. Bone, 2003. 33(3): p. 308-16.