Most fractures in older people are caused by the combination of weak bones and a fall. As a person ages, their bones naturally get weaker.

After menopause, having less female hormone estrogen also makes a woman’s bones thinner. In their 70s, men lose testosterone, and their bones weaken too.

In addition, the risk of falling increases with age because balance and vision weaken, reflexes slow down, and coordination worsens. 

When bones become fragile, even a small move can cause a fracture. For example, lifting something, bending forward, or stepping down harder than usual may cause a vertebral fracture (break in one of the bones of your back). 

Risk Factors

Simply getting older increases your risk of a fracture. But if you have any of the following conditions, your chances rise: 

  • Osteoporosis or osteopenia (loss of bone mass)
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diseases of the bones such as Pagets disease, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Kidney failure requiring dialysis
  • Medications (for example, long-term medicines used for asthma [such as prednisone]; medications for high blood pressure, seizures, breast cancer, or thyroid conditions; blood thinners; anxiety medications; and sleeping pills)
  • Intestinal problems that prevent you from absorbing nutrients well
  • Long-term alcohol misuse or use of tobacco
  • Inactive (sedentary) lifestyle
  • Hyper-thyroid and hyper-parathyroid disease
  • Osteomalacia (a bone disorder related to inadequate vitamin D in older people)
  • History of prior fracture
  • Parent(s) with a history of hip fracture


Last Updated December 2022

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