There are a number of osteoporosis risk factors, some of which are fixed—such as gender and age—while other risk factors can be modified—such as low calcium intake and alcohol consumption.
Being a woman, especially one who is post-menopausal, is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis-related fractures are nearly twice as common in women as they are in men. Women tend to have a lower bone density than men and lose bone mass more quickly as they get older.
Everyone experiences a natural decrease in bone density as they age, which usually begins between 30 and 35 years of age. In people with osteoporosis, this bone loss is accompanied by an accelerated loss of maximum calcium absorption by the gut and kidney. So, osteoporosis is more common among older people. Studies show that less than one percent of women between ages 20 and 29 have osteoporosis. By age 50, 20 percent of women have osteoporosis and another 38 percent have osteopenia (low bone mineral density). By age 80, only 13 percent of women have normal bone density.
People who are Caucasian or of Asian or Native-American descent are at a greater risk of having the condition. Studies have shown that women of Asian descent have the lowest bone-mineral density than women of other ethnicities. African American women are much less likely to develop osteoporosis than other racial groups.
Genetics play a role in determining how likely you are to have osteoporosis. If any of your first degree relatives (parents or siblings) has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, then you have a greater risk of developing it.
Having a thin or petite frame increases your risk of having osteoporosis. Small, thin bones tend to have less bone mass to begin with, which means there is less bone “banked away” when old bone is destroyed faster than it is being formed.
Low Calcium Intake
Calcium is the building block of bone; it’s needed to keep bones dense and strong. A low calcium intake is linked with a greater risk of osteoporosis. Adults under the age of 50 should aim to get in 1000 milligrams of calcium per day from calcium-rich foods or supplements along with 200 to 800 IUs of vitamin D daily. Adults ages 50 and older should get 1200 milligrams of calcium per day along with 800 to 1,000 IUs of vitamin D daily.
Smoking and Heavy Drinking
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are two behaviors that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Smoking is harmful to bone cells and may make it harder for your body to absorb calcium. Drinking may reduce your body’s calcium supply.
There are a range of health conditions and disorders that can cause bone loss, thereby increasing your risk of osteoporosis. These include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- celiac disease
- irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- chronic kidney disease
- eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia)
Certain medications can speed up bone loss, leading to osteoporosis. Corticosteroids like prednisone are notorious for contributing to osteoporosis. Other common medicines that may contribute to the development of osteoporosis include:
- certain anti-seizure medications
- proton pump inhibitors
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants)
Caffeine appears to diminish calcium absorption by a small amount. Drinking more than three cups of coffee per day may be harmful to bone health, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.