HIV and Osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis is a disease that develops due to bone loss. The bones of people with osteoporosis become weak and are more likely to break. Osteoporosis increases the risk of broken bones of the hip, spine, and wrist.
- The risk of osteoporosis increases as people age. Anyone can get osteoporosis, but it is most common in older women.
- HIV infection and some HIV medicines may increase the risk of osteoporosis in people with HIV.
- Other risk factors for osteoporosis include a diet low in calcium and vitamin D, physical inactivity, and smoking. These risk factors can be managed by lifestyle changes. For example, getting enough calcium and vitamin D and staying active make bones stronger and help slow down bone loss.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that develops due to bone loss. The bones of people with osteoporosis become weak and are more likely to break. Osteoporosis increases the risk of broken bones of the hip, spine, and wrist.
The risk of osteoporosis increases as people age. Anyone can get osteoporosis, but it is most common in older women.
HIV infection and some HIV medicines may increase the risk of osteoporosis in people with HIV.
What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?
There are many risk factors for osteoporosis. Some risk factors cannot be changed, while other risk factors can be managed with lifestyle choices.
Risk factors for osteoporosis that cannot be changed include:
- Age: The risk of osteoporosis increases as people get older.
- Gender: Compared to men, women have smaller bones and lose bone faster due to hormonal changes after menopause.
- Race/ethnicity: The risk of osteoporosis is greatest for White and Asian women.
- Family history: Osteoporosis tends to run in families.
The following risk factors for osteoporosis can be controlled by lifestyle choices:
- Poor diet: A diet low in calcium and vitamin D increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Physical inactivity: Physical inactivity tends to weaken bones.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Alcohol: Too much alcohol can cause bone loss and broken bones.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
Bone loss that leads to osteoporosis occurs without symptoms. The first sign of osteoporosis is often a broken bone.
A bone mineral density test (also called dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) is used to measure bone health. The test, which is painless, is used to diagnose osteoporosis.
People with HIV may wish to discuss bone mineral density testing with their health care providers.
What steps can a person take to prevent osteoporosis?
People can take the following steps to prevent osteoporosis.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Foods high in calcium include milk and other dairy products, broccoli, sardines, tofu, and almonds. Milk is fortified with vitamin D. Egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver are also high in vitamin D. People can also take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
- Stay active. Physical activities, such as walking and lifting weights, can make bones stronger and help slow down bone loss.
- Do not smoke.
- Cut down on alcohol. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
How is osteoporosis treated?
Treatment for osteoporosis includes eating a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and getting regular exercise to improve bone health. There are also medicines to help prevent and treat osteoporosis.
People with osteoporosis also need to avoid falls that can lead to broken bones. For example, they may use a cane or walker to help prevent falls.
This fact sheet is based on information from the following sources:
From the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases:
From the National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center:
From the Department of Health and Human Services:
- Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Adults and Adolescents Living with HIV:
Also see the HIV Source collection of HIV links and resources.