Osteoporosis Risk Factors

Know Your Risk, Lower Your Risk

There is no single cause for osteoporosis, but several known factors increase the risk of developing it. Everyone over the age of 65 and anyone over 50 who has at least one major risk factor, or two minor risk factors, should consult a doctor about a bone mass test. Check this chart:

Major Risk Factors Minor Risk Factors
A bone that broke easily (after age 40) Rheumatoid arthritis
Compression fracture of a vertebra Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
Family history of fracture due to osteoporosis (especially maternal hip fracture) Chronic anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) therapy
Glucocorticoid therapy for more than 3 months Low dietary calcium intake
Medical conditions that affect nutrient absorption Smoking
Disease of the parathyroid glands (primary hyperparathyroidism) Excessive alcohol intake
Tendency to fall Excessive caffeine intake
Reduced bone density (osteopenia) Body weight less than 57 kg (125 lbs)
Early menopause (before age 45) Loss of more than 10% of body weight after age 25
Loss of menstrual periods in young women or low testosterone levels in men Prolonged use of heparin (blood thinner)

The Role of Calcium

Almost every cell in our body needs calcium to function properly. If we don’t take in enough, our body removes calcium from our bones to make it available for other important functions, such as helping to regulate blood pressure.

Vitamin D helps our body absorb the calcium we consume more efficiently. When we don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D from our diet, we can complement our intake with a supplement.

The amount of calcium and vitamin D you need each day depends on your age. The Osteoporosis Society of Canada recommends the following:

Age Daily Elemental Calcium Requirement Daily Vitamin D Requirement
19 – 50 years 1,000 mg 400 – 1,000 IU
50 years & over 1,200 mg 800 – 2,000 IU

The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D increases calcium absorption by as much as 30% to 80%, but it can be difficult to meet your daily requirement of vitamin D through diet alone.

Vitamin D Content of Some Common Foods
Food Serving Size Vitamin D
Salmon, cooked 100 g (3½ oz.) 360 IU
Tuna, canned in oil 90 g (3 oz.) 200 IU
Margarine, fortified 15 mL (1 Tbsp.) 60 IU
Egg 1 whole 20 IU
Milk, fortified w/ Vitamin D 250 mL (1 cup) 100 IU

Source: National Institutes of Health (US), Office of Dietary Supplements

Regular exposure to the sun can stimulate our skin to produce vitamin D, but sunlight exposes us to harmful ultraviolet radiation. Sunscreens, which block out the ultraviolet radiation, also block the formation of vitamin D.

And the sun’s position over Canada during the winter limits skin’s ability to produce this vitamin. A supplement containing both calcium and vitamin D can help you meet your daily requirements of these nutrients.


National Institutes of Health (US), Office of Dietary Supplements

Help Reduce The Risk

Try a well-balanced diet, avoid tobacco and alcohol, get adequate calcium and vitamin D, exercise.
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