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July 5, 2022
At Risk for Osteoporosis? Here Are 12 Critical Risk Factors to Know
Osteoporosis is called a silent disease for a reason.
This sneaky condition can creep in when you least expect it with catastrophic bone fractures that can wreak havoc on your everyday life.
As your bones weaken, osteoporosis puts the daily activities you love in jeopardy. And if you’re reading this, odds are high that you’re at risk for the condition—but you are far from powerless!
There’s plenty you can do to lower or even reverse your risk of osteoporosis, as long as you know where to start…
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease caused by a decrease in bone mass and bone mineral density, or by a change in your bones’ quality or structure (1). The condition can make your bones weaker, which can increase your risk of fractures. Many people don’t realize they have osteoporosis until they break a bone.
On average, osteoporosis tends to develop when a woman is in her 50s, though she may not know she has it right away (2).
12 Risk Factors for Osteoporosis to Look Out for
Experts classify risk factors for osteoporosis into modifiable factors and non-modifiable factors. This means that while some are out of your control or have more to do with your genetics, other factors are habits that can be changed. There is also a range of factors considered to be secondary causes of osteoporosis—all of which are part of your overall risk profile.
1. Lack of Exercise
Not getting enough physical activity can worsen your bone health and cause increased bone density loss (3).
Chronic stress is a risk factor for so many health issues, and that includes osteoporosis (4). Some research, however, indicates that the perception of stress may be more significant than stress in general, so relaxing practices like meditation are always good to include in your daily routine (5).
Smoking can interfere with bone turnover, which can decrease your bone mass and density (6). Cigarettes can also increase your risk of bone fracture.
Chronic heavy drinking, including in your younger years, can increase your osteoporosis risk (7). In menopause, heavy alcohol use can lower your bone density and amp up your fracture risk. (This doesn’t mean avoiding drinking altogether! It’s all about balance.)
5. Air Pollution
This factor is lesser-known than others, but long-term exposure to certain types of air pollutants can contribute to bone loss. This is especially true if you’ve been exposed over many years to black carbon—or soot—in the air around you (8).
6. Poor Nutritional Absorption
If your body isn’t getting the nutrition you need, your bone density can suffer. This is especially true when it comes to nutrients like vitamin D and vitamin K (9).
As we age, our body loses collagen—one of the key ingredients that make up bone mass. So by the time women turn 50, their body is producing significantly less collagen than it used to. If this isn’t corrected through healthy habits and supplements, it can lead to weaker bones and a higher risk of fractures (10, 11).
8. A History of Falls
If you’ve had a fall within the last year, odds are higher that you’ll have another fall with a risk of bone fracture. In fact, one study indicated that if a postmenopausal woman has fallen at any point in the past 12 months there is a likelihood that she’ll experience a fracture sometime in the next five years (12, 13).
Make no mistake, men do get osteoporosis—and as many as 2.8 million men in America are experiencing osteoporosis right now. However, women are far more likely to develop it. In fact, women over 50 are four times more likely to have the condition than men (14).
10. Previous Fractures
Much like with a history of falling, a history of fractures puts you at risk for more fractures in the future (15).
11. Family History
Research has indicated that your family’s history of osteoporosis can make a huge impact on your personal risk factor. If your mom or grandmother had osteoporosis, it’s more likely that you will, too (16).
12. Existing Health Conditions
Health conditions like chronic liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease, dementia, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can all be secondary causes of osteoporosis (17, 18).
When Should You Start Getting DEXA Scans?
A DEXA scan is an imaging test that’s also known as a bone density test, and it’s your first line of defense against osteoporosis (19).
DEXA scans can measure your bone density (how strong your bones are) and help gauge your risk factors for osteoporosis and fractures. It can also measure your body fat and muscle mass.
Most women should start getting regular DEXA scans around age 65. Sometimes, healthcare providers suggest that certain women start getting scans earlier if they have certain risk factors. (For example, if you’ve broken a bone after age 50.) Most women are advised to get bone density scans every few years in their 60s, and those with osteoporosis will want to get one every 1 to 2 years (20).
The process of getting a DEXA scan feels similar to getting an x-ray. After your scan, your healthcare provider will present you with a T Score, which signifies how much bone density you’ve lost. The higher your T Score, the stronger your bones are (20).
Here’s What Your T Score Means:
-Normal Bone Density: More than or equal to -1.0
-Osteopenia: -1.0 to -2.5
-Osteoporosis: Less than or equal to -2.5
-Severe Osteoporosis: Less than or equal to -2.5 (in addition to fragility fractures)
How to Reverse Your Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
You can reverse the clock on your osteoporosis risk with a few simple habit shifts. Here’s how to get on the path to stronger bones.
Take a Collagen Supplement Daily
Collagen is a building block of your bones. As the body ages, it produces less collagen, which results in lower bone density (21).
Adding a daily grass-fed collagen supplement to your routine is an easy way to replenish what your bones are missing. Research has linked collagen to stronger bones and higher bone density (22)!
NativePath customers especially love taking collagen for bone health. “Since starting NativePath at 74 my bone density testing came back as excellent,” a customer, Marylou, shared. “Is it working? You bet. All I can say is try it for yourself and see.”
Some customers are even tracking collagen’s direct impact on their bone density numbers, like Tommie: “I’ve been taking it for almost a year and can’t wait until my next bone density test to see how it has improved!”
One customer, Marilyn, turned to collagen in place of an osteoporosis medication and loved the results: “I got bone density scans done two yrs ago…doctor put me on Prolia, 1 shot every 6 months. Really long story short: after two blunders from the pharmacy (because I wasn't 70+) and getting the shot every 8 months because of ‘special approval delays,’ I decided I wasn't going for round 3.” After this, Marilyn learned about NativePath collagen and decided to try it. “I've been taking two scoops every morning for about a year now. Just got my recent bone scan back. Doc’s report: REMARKABLE IMPROVEMENT. This is literally the only change I have made! Don't think I'll go without it again.”
You can mix collagen into your morning tea or coffee, add it to a smoothie or soup, or even bake with it.
Get Regular Exercise
Regular physical activity is vital for bone health, and weight-bearing aerobic exercise is especially important for keeping your bones strong (23). This can include walking, hiking, light dancing, gardening, or any activity that requires your body to work against gravity. Resistance training, gentle stretching, and balance exercises can also help keep your bones strong and prevent fracture-causing falls (24).
Take Your Vitamins
Low levels of vitamin D and vitamin K in the body are linked to low bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis (25, 26). Make sure you’re getting what you need with a daily supplement, like NativePath Vitamin D3 + K2. Aim to get at least 800 IU of vitamin D3 per day to keep your bones strong.
Spend Time In the Sunshine
In addition to loading up on a vitamin D supplement, do your bones an extra favor by getting at least 10 to 30 minutes of sunshine each day. If you plan on being outside for an extended period of time, apply a toxin-free sunscreen.
The Bottom Line
While there are plenty of risk factors for osteoporosis, there are also plenty of ways to lower or even reverse your risk.
Load up on powerful supplements like NativePath Collagen Peptides and NativePath Vitamin D3 + K2, get regular exercise, and get regular bone density scans so that you know where you stand in terms of bone health. Osteoporosis is a common condition across the world, but it doesn’t have to be.
As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.