by EBSCO Medical Review Board

A risk factor is something that makes the chances of a disease higher. You can have osteoporosis with or without them. The more you have, the higher the chances that bone loss will happen at a faster rate. Your doctor will work with you to help you lower your risk.

Risk Factors for Women

Women are at greater risk of having osteoporosis than men. This is because they have less bone mass than men. Women also have a sudden drop in hormones (mainly estrogen) at menopause .

If you miss your period for 3 months or longer ( amenorrhea ) it can also raise your risk. This can happen with eating disorders or hard exercise such as marathon running.

Risk Factors for Men

Men have a higher bone mass and lose calcium at a slower rate. But after age 50, bone loss slowly rises.

Low levels of testosterone play a role. This may be linked to:

  • Aging
  • Prostate cancer care
  • A severe deficiency in the male sex hormone—hypogonadism

Risk Factors in Both Sexes


Bone building slows down as bone loss speeds up. This is normal as you age. But it makes the chances of having osteoporosis higher.


If people in your family have osteoporosis, your chances of it are higher. This is especially true if someone has or had a broken hip. Certain genetic diseases also raise your risk.


Not getting enough calcium or vitamin D is a main cause for osteoporosis. Other links to bone loss are too much alcohol or caffeine use. Eating a balanced diet with a lot of different foods is best.

Lack of Exercise

Exercise keeps your bones strong. Not exercising causes weaker muscles and poorer balance. This can lead to falls and broken bones.


Smoking disrupts your bone and joint health. Smoking and low bone mass are linked.

Bone Structure and Body Weight

The chances are higher in people who are underweight or have a small frame.

Lack of Sunlight

Sun on your skin is the main source of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps grow strong bones. If you don’t get in the sun enough, your vitamin D levels may be low. This can also happen if you don’t eat enough foods with vitamin D.

Race and Ethnic Background

White, Asian, and Hispanic women are more likely to have osteoporosis. This may also be true in men, but to a lesser degree.

Medicines and Health Problems

The long term use of certain medicines such as:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Immune system suppressants
  • Chemotherapy
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizures
  • Aluminum antacids
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Long term heparin therapy
  • Glitazones—used to treat diabetes

Talk to your doctor before stopping or changing medicines.

Long term health problems such as:


Conditions and medicines that can cause falls. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: Accessed June 26, 2018.

Ho-Pham LT, Nguyen ND, Nguyen TV. Effect of vegetarian diets on bone mineral density: a Bayesian meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(4):943-950.

Osteoporosis. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website. Available at: Updated June 2015. Accessed June 26, 2018.

Osteoporosis causes and risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated May 9, 2018. Accessed June 26, 2018.

What women need to know. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2018.

12/29/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  : Hippisley-Cox J, Coupland C. Predicting risk of osteoporotic fracture in men and women in England and Wales: prospective derivation and validation of QFractureScores. BMJ. 2009;339:b4229.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018
  • Update Date: 06/26/2018