Updated 10 April 2017

Am I at risk of developing osteoporosis?

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to osteoporosis. These are the things you need to look out for.


Treating someone with established osteoporosis is difficult, and therefore the key is to prevent it from developing in the first place.

Identifying your risk factors early can help stop bone loss sooner rather than at a more advanced stage, when it may be more difficult to treat.

Because there are no real symptoms until a fracture happens, we call it the Silent Disease. You cannot feel your bones thinning -- it is similar to not feeling high cholesterol and ending up having a heart attack! When a bone finally breaks it may be too late.


Common risk factors


We all know the damage smoking does to your heart and lungs, but few know that compared to non-smokers, smokers have an up to 1.8 times higher risk of hip fracture. 

Excessive alcohol use

If you drink more than two units of alcohol per day, you have a 40% increased risk of suffering an osteoporotic fracture. Moderate drinking is beneficial to overall health and your bones.

Excessive leanness and poor nutrition

A Body Mass Index of below 19 is considered underweight and a risk factor for osteoporosis, especially if you follow a low kilojoule diet low in bone-health nutrients like calcium, protein and vitamin D. Poor nutrition in the elderly is particularly concerning because they are more prone to falls and fractures.

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D, usually made in the skin as a result of sun exposure, is essential for the absorption of calcium and therefore bone health. Few foods contain vitamin D, and nowadays young and old spend less time in the sun -- and when we do, we wear sunblock. What all of this boils down to is that vitamin D deficiency has become a global problem.

Frequent falls

Ninety percent of hip fractures occur when older people fall. Poor eyesight, impaired balance, dementia and medication all increase the risk of falling.

Insufficient exercise

If you don’t exercise you lose muscle mass and also bone density. Regular weightbearing and muscle strengthening exercises are therefore very important for bone health. In the elderly, immobility often leads to a hip fracture as a result of poor muscle strength and reflexes.

 Eating disorders

Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia lead to malnourishment and extreme weight loss, and because important nutrients like calcium, protein and vitamin D are underprovided, bone health suffers as a result.

Recent loss of height

If you have lost more than 3cm in the past year, it can be a sign of vertebral (spine) fractures caused by osteoporosis.



 National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa NOFSA

 International Osteoporosis Foundation IOF


This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication.

Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer. In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the Package Insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines.


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