Causes of Osteoporosis

Written by Isador H. Lieberman, MD, MBA, FRCSC

Osteoporosis can have several causes, some of which are hereditary and some of which come from your lifestyle. Some osteoporosis causes you can't control are:

Learn the basics of osteoporosis and discover how it's treated in our osteoporosis slideshow.

Then there are causes that you can somewhat control but are also partly out of your hands:

Estrogen Levels: Estrogen protects bones, so if you have low estrogen levels, you're more at risk for developing osteoporosis. Menopause causes a fast decrease in estrogen levels, which is why if you're a post-menopausal woman, you need to be especially vigilant about your bone health. Women may lose bone at a rate of 4 to 8% per year for several years after their ovaries stop producing estrogen.

History of Broken Bones: If you've broken bones in the past, you could be more at risk for osteoporosis because the broken bone(s) probably lowered your bone mineral densiry (BMD).

Low Body Weight: Petite and small boned women (under 130 pounds) have less bone mass to begin with, so they need to be particularly vigilant about their bone health.

Osteoporosis is also caused by factors that are completely in your control, and this is what makes osteoporosis preventable. In thinking about your bones, you should be considering:

Sadly, anyone who had a poor diet growing up, either because of poverty or poor eating habits, may not have gotten enough calcium and other minerals to build strong bones.

Sometimes, having too much of something in your diet can harm your bones. (Everything in moderation; that's the lesson to learn from this.) You should monitor your intake of:

Osteoporosis can be caused by a medical condition or medication, and that's called secondary osteoporosis.

Medical conditions that can lead to osteoporosis (not an exhaustive list):

Intestinal problems: These can interfere with absorption of calcium and vitamin D, which makes it harder for your body to regenerate bones. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an example.

Kidney problems: Kidney issues can cause calcium loss, upsetting the balance of bone loss and growth.

Parathyroid and thyroid problems: Hyperparathyroidism causes your body to create too much parathyroid hormone (PTH), and that leads to bone loss. This article has more information about parathyroid disease and osteoporosis. Hyperthyroidism puts too much of the thyroid hormone in your body, potentially weakening your bones.

Nutrient absorption problems: People with celiac disease have trouble absorbing nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, and without those, it's harder to maintain health bones.

Medications that can lead to osteoporosis (not an exhaustive list):

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Exams and Tests for Osteoporosis