Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, especially calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, resulting in:

  • bones becoming fragile and brittle
  • breaking more easily than normal bone
  • fractures from minor bumps or falls

There is no single cause of osteoporosis; the health of your bones depends on:

  • level of physical activity
  • dietary calcium intake and good general nutrition
  • safe exposure to sunlight
  • genetics
  • the level of hormones in your body (oestrogen for women and testosterone for men)

Risk factors include:

  • family history – having a parent who had osteoporosis, experienced fractures, lost height or had a “Dowager’s hump” indicates low bone density in your family
  • low calcium intake
  • low Vitamin D levels – lack of sun exposure can mean insufficient production of Vitamin D, which your body needs to absorb calcium
  • your medical history – certain conditions (low hormone levels; coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease; thyroid conditions; some other chronic diseases eg rheumatoid arthritis or kidney disease) and medicines ( corticosteroids used for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions; some medicines used for epilepsy, breast cancer, prostate cancer; and some antipsychotics) can impact on your bone health
  • lifestyle factors – low levels of physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, thin body build or excessive weight

For further information go the Osteoporosis Australia website – www.osteoporosis.org.au – and click on “About Osteoporosis”, “Prevention” and “Living Well with Osteoporosis”.