What is Osteoporosis?


Genes and lifestyle impact how strong bones are. While you can’t change your genetics, you can adopt a ‘bonefriendly’ lifestyle which includes adequate calcium intake, exercise and sufficient vitamin D.

Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose calcium and other minerals, making them fragile and more likely to fracture. In Australia, osteoporosis affects 1.2 million people. This number is expected to increase as our population grows older. For more detailed information download our Osteoporosis fact sheet

Osteoporosis affects more than 1 in 5 women over the age of 65 years, compared with around 1 in 20 men. Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis because of the rapid drop in the hormone oestrogen during menopause. In men, testosterone levels decline more gradually. As a result, bone mass in men usually remains adequate until later in life. By age 65, both men and women lose bone at the same rate.

It is never too late to start looking after your bones and take steps to reduce the risk of fracture in the future. For further information download our Osteoporosis Fact Sheet.



Reducing the risk of osteoporosis is a lifetime process. While age, genetics and gender cannot be altered, the following behaviours can help lower the risk of osteoporosis:

1. Consuming plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, every day.

2. Participating in regular exercise and physical activity.

3. Having regular and safe sun exposure for adequate vitamin D production.


Calcium is essential for building strong bones as well as supporting muscle and nerve function. Almost 99% of the body’s calcium is found in bones, where it combines with other minerals to form the hard crystals that give bones their strength and structure. If we do not eat enough calcium, the calcium within our bones is used for other important body functions. Over a long period of time bone strength can decline and may increase our risk of osteoporosis.

Milk, cheese and yoghurt are a rich source of calcium in the Australian diet, supplying around 60 per cent of the calcium we eat. While it is true that calcium is found in other foods, meeting calcium needs without dairy foods can be difficult. You need to consume 5 cups of cooked broccoli; 32 brussels sprouts; 165g almonds; or five cups of red beans to provide your body with the same amount of calcium as it will get from one 250ml glass of milk.