preventing osteoporosis
Sports / Orthopedic

Risk Factors and Tips for Preventing Osteoporosis

May 17 2024

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that can occur when the body loses too much bone, does not make enough bone or both. When this occurs, your bones become weak and may break easily. In severe cases, even sneezing could cause a bone fracture.

While women who smoke and are over age 50 are at the greatest risk, there are many risk factors for osteoporosis. Brian S. Kern, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Mercy Health – Western Kentucky Orthopedics, discusses preventing osteoporosis and its risk factors.

What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?

The primary risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:

  • Age: People over the age of 50 are most likely to develop osteoporosis
  • Sex: Women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Smoking: Current smokers and those who ingest secondhand smoke are more likely to develop osteoporosis
  • Fracture history: If you’ve had a bone fracture as an adult or a family member (first-degree relative) has a history of fractures, you could be at higher risk
  • Low body weight: People less than 127 pounds or with a BMI of less than 21 are more likely to develop osteoporosis
  • Corticosteroid therapy: Using oral steroids (corticosteroid therapy) for more than three months increases the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life
  • Estrogen deficiency: Low hormone levels and few menstrual cycles can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis

Is preventing osteoporosis possible?

Osteoporosis can be a serious condition that can interfere with your ability to do day-to-day activities. The good news is that you can start taking steps as a child to prevent the disease from developing or worsening.

Tips you can incorporate into your daily routine for preventing osteoporosis include:

  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet that is rich in both calcium and vitamin D. Incorporate foods such as beans, vegetables and fiber into your diet and limit refined sugars when possible.
  • Participate in a weight-bearing exercise program. Exercise can stimulate the bones, so it’s a good idea to go for a walk, hike or pick up some weights. As little as 15 minutes a day can help.
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoking, which can lower estrogen levels in the body. With lower estrogen levels, bones absorb less calcium.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol can drain calcium from the bones. Even as little as two to three ounces of alcohol can negatively impact the bones.
  • Limit or eliminate caffeine and carbonated beverages from your diet.
  • Get outside and into the sun. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium that goes to the bones; just don’t forget to wear sunscreen.
  • Reduce stress. Excessive stress can raise cortisol levels, which leads to bone loss. If you’re at risk of developing osteoporosis, prioritize activities that help lower your stress levels.
  • Reduce protein consumption. Your body needs two to four ounces of lean protein each day. Too much protein can cause calcium loss.
  • Fall prevention. Taking measures to prevent falls is crucial, especially for older adults. Keep your home well-lit, remove hazards like loose rugs and consider using assistive devices if necessary.
  • Get regular bone density test. Consult with your health care provider about bone density tests, especially if you have risk factors for osteoporosis. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in managing the condition.

Do you think you or a loved one is at risk for developing osteoporosis? You can start with your primary care physician, or if you’re experiencing symptoms of bone density loss, reach out to an orthopedic specialist to help prevent osteoporosis from worsening.

Learn about the orthopedic and sports medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.

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