Could you be at risk?

older lady and younger woman indoors

Your risk of developing osteoporosis and suffering a broken bone is linked to your:

Family history – if one of your parents has broken a hip, you are more likely to have a fracture yourself.

Age – osteoporosis becomes more likely, the older you are. It affects around 50% of people over the age of 75. Over the age of 50, one in two women and one in five men will break a bone, mainly due to poor bone health arising from osteoporosis.

Gender – osteoporosis is found in men but is more common in women.  Women have smaller bones and also experience the menopause. Hormone changes associated with the menopause directly affect bone density. A woman’s risk also increases if she has an early menopause or a hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries before the age of 45.

Anorexia nervosa – this is characterised by low body weight, low levels of oestrogen and often a diet lacking the calcium needed to build strong bones.

Certain medical conditions and their treatment:

  • cancer treatment that affects male or female hormone levels;
  • conditions like Crohns or coeliac disease or colitis that affect absorption of food;
  • conditions like arthritis or asthma if you are treated with corticosteroids;
  • some treatments prescribed for epilepsy;
  • conditions that mean you are relatively immobile or in bed for long periods.

Lifestyle risk factors include:

  • smoking;
  • drinking more than 3 units of alcohol daily;
  • taking little weight bearing exercise;
  • low dietary calcium and insufficient vitamin D;
  • being very slim with a low body mass index (BMI) below 19kg/m2.

Can you delay the onset or reduce your risk?

Although your genes play a major role in deciding the strength of your bones, taking steps to build up your bones before your mid 20s, means you’ll maximise the strength of your bones and so be better protected against osteoporosis and fractures later on.

This is an important message for young people but you need to take action throughout your life to help keep your bones strong.  Try to make sure you:

  • eat a healthy diet with plenty of calcium rich foods;
  • get enough vitamin D which is important for the absorption of calcium. In the UK most people get their vitamin D from the action of summer sunshine on their skin. If you don’t get outside often, or cover your skin for cultural reasons, you may want to get advice from your GP about taking a daily vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is also found in foods such as fortified margarines and spreads, oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel and some breakfast cereals;
  • keep a healthy weight;
  • take part regularly in weight-bearing activities, as this stimulates bone formation. Try activities like walking, dancing, netball, football or tennis;
  • don’t start to smoke or if you are a smoker, seek help to give up;
  • drink in moderation.

Your Age UK

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Age UK Advice:
0800 678 1174

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