Who is most at risk of developing osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a skeletal condition that affects an estimated 1.2 million Australians.1 It causes bones to lose their strength and density, and become fragile and brittle allowing them to fracture more easily.

There are a variety of factors, both controllable and uncontrollable, that put a person at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Uncontrollable risk factors

  • Family history – Having a family history of osteoporosis or fractures caused by minimal trauma.1
  • Menopause – Oestrogen has a fundamental role in maintaining bone strength in women. The fall in oestrogen that occurs in menopause results in accelerated bone loss and therefore increases the risk of developing osteoporosis.2
  • Medical history – Certain health conditions and long term use of medicines can impact on your bone health.
  • Increasing age – After maximum bone density and strength is reached at around the age of 30, bone mass slowly begins to decline. As we age bones become more fragile and are more likely to break.3
  • Having a naturally thin body build – Having a low body mass index can increase a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis.3 This might be because they have less bone to lose than those with a higher body weight or larger frame.

Controllable risk factors?

  • Inadequate intake of dietary calcium – Calcium is a major structural element of bones and teeth, and helps maintain bone mass and strength.
  • Low vitamin D levels – Vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb and utilise calcium, and is therefore important for the maintenance of strong healthy bones.
  • Smoking2 Cigarette smoking can cause bones to lose their strength and become more fragile.
  • Drinking too much alcohol2 Intake of more than two standard alcoholic drinks daily can increase your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Excessive caffeine consumption2 Caffeine intake of more than three cups of tea, coffee or equivalent per day can affect bone health.
  • Having an inactive lifestyle2 Regular exercise is important for maintaining bone density so being sedentary may have the reverse effect.
  • Being under or overweight1 Having a low body weight or carrying excess weight can both impact on bones.

If you think you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis, consult your healthcare professional.