Osteoporosis: Are You at Risk?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on July 30, 2021
2 min read

Osteoporosis makes you more likely to break bones because you lose bone mass and density. You may not have any symptoms or pain. The first sign might be a bone fracture.

It’s a myth that osteoporosis is a disease that only affects older white women. Men and women of all ages and ethnicities can get it. However, certain things do make osteoporosis more likely:

Age. Your bone density peaks around age 30. After that, you’ll begin to lose bone mass. So that’s all the more reason to do strength training and weight-bearing exercise -- and make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet -- to keep your bones as strong as possible as you get older.

Gender. Women over the age of 50 are the most likely people to develop osteoporosis. The condition is 4 times as likely in women than men. Women's lighter, thinner bones and longer life spans are part of the reason they have a higher risk. Men can get osteoporosis, too -- it’s just less common.

Family history. If your parents or grandparents have had osteoporosis or any signs of osteoporosis, such as a fractured hip after a minor fall, you may be more likely to get it, too.

Bone structure and body weight. Petite and thin women have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis. One reason is that they have less bone to lose than women with more body weight and larger frames. Similarly, small-boned, thin men are at greater risk than men with larger frames and more body weight.

Broken bones. If you’ve had fractures before, your bones may not be as strong.

Ethnicity. Research shows that Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than women of other ethnic backgrounds. Hip fractures are also twice as likely to happen in Caucasian women as in African-American women.

Certain diseases. Some diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis raise the odds that you’ll get osteoporosis.

Some medications. Certain prescription medications -- for example, if you take steroids such as prednisone for a long time -- can also boost your odds of getting osteoporosis.

Smoking. It’s bad for your bones. To lower your risk of osteoporosis and fractures -- and many other health problems -- work with your doctor to kick this habit ASAP.

Alcohol. Heavy drinking can lead to thinning of the bones and make fractures more likely.