Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist.
Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis? - Articles


Photo credit: Cisc1970, Flickr Creative Commons

Who Gets Osteoporosis?

In the United States, 54 million adults 50 years and older are affected by osteoporosis or have low bone mass, osteopenia.

Osteoporosis can strike at any age, but it is most common in older women. One out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Many risk factors can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Some of these risk factors you cannot change, while others you can.

Risk Factors You Cannot Change

  • Sex--women develop osteoporosis more often than men.
  • Age--the older you are, the greater your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Frame size--small, thin women with small bone structure are at greater risk.
  • Ethnicity--white and Asian women are at highest risk; black and Hispanic women have a lower risk.
  • Family history--osteoporosis tends to run in families. If a family member has osteoporosis or a history of broken bones, there is a greater chance you might develop it too.

Risk Factors You Can Change

  • Hormone status--low estrogen levels due to menopause or missing menstrual periods can cause osteoporosis in women. Low testosterone levels can bring on osteoporosis in men.
  • Foods patterns--a diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss.
  • Medication use--some medicines increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Activity level--lack of exercise or long-term bedrest can weaken bones.
  • Alcohol intake--more than 2 to 3 ounces of alcohol a day can cause bone loss that can lead to broken bones.
  • Smoking--cigarettes weaken bones.
  • Anorexia nervosa--this eating disorder can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin supplements-- avoid taking excess amounts of vitamin A supplements.

How Can I Reduce My Risk?

There are many steps you can take to keep your bones healthy. To keep your bones strong and slow down bone loss, eat a healthy diet that includes calcium and vitamin D. Do regular wight-bearing exercise to help maintain or increase bone strength. Do not drink alcohol in excess or smoke. Lastly, talk to your health care provider about the medications you are taking. Some medications are prescribed to prevent and treat osteoporosis. On the other hand, some medications used for other purposes may result in bone loss.

To help reduce your risk of osteoporosis, consider increasing your intake of the following foods:

  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Canned beans such as navy, great northern, and pinto
  • Calcium-fortified products such as orange juice and cereal
  • Canned fish with bones such as sardines and salmon
  • Soy products such as tofu
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables

Examine your risks

My RisksWhat I do nowWhat I would like
to change
How I plan to change
Lack of exerciseDon't make timeBe more activeTake the stairs rather than the elevator

My Goal:



Try the following to boost calcium content of your meals and snacks:

  • Add low-fat shredded cheese to English muffin, bagel, or toast.
  • Drink milk instead of soda or other beverages at meals.
  • Enjoy a glass of chocolate milk or hot chocolate for a snack.
  • Add broccoli or beans to salads.
  • Add nonfat dry milk to recipes (meatballs, meatloaf, creamed soups).
  • Choose yogurt at breakfast or for a snack.

Low-fat Creamy Pumpkin Mousse

Serving size: 8 (1 cup) servings


  • 1 16-ounce can of pumpkin
  • 1 3.5 ounce instant, sugar free vanilla pudding mix
  • ¼ cup low fat (1%) or skim milk
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups low fat whipped topping


    In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, pudding mix, milk and cinnamon until well blended. Fold in whipped topping until thoroughly blended. Cover and chill until ready to serve. To serve, spoon into serving cups and top with additional whipped topping.

    Nutrient Information: Calcium per serving: 60 mg Calories per serving: 127


    National Institutes of Health, Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, “Osteoporosis Overview.”

    Prepared by Dori Campbell and Laurie Welch, Penn State extension educators. Revised by Laurie Welch.