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Bone Health

Loss of bone mineral density (osteopenia), which can lead to more fragile and brittle bones (osteoporosis), is a common condition associated with ageing. Osteoporosis is most common in post-menopausal women.

People with HIV may be at increased risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis because:

  • Lifestyle risk factors are more prevalent among people with HIV
  • Some antiretroviral medications are associated with increased risk
  • HIV may cause metabolic changes that decrease bone mineral density (BMD).

Lifestyle risk factors for osteopenia include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • A very low body weight?
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Lack of calcium and vitamin D in the diet
  • Low levels of oestrogen or testosterone

Things you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Ensure you have plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Do regular weight-bearing exercise
  • Stop smoking, and avoid excessive alcohol
  • Discuss screening for bone mineral density with your doctor
  • For menopausal women, discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your doctor.

Vitamin D is essential for bone health, because it helps:

  • increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorous from the stomach
  • regulate the amount of calcium in the blood
  • strengthen the skeleton

For Australians, the main source of vitamin D is from exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D3 is formed by the action of sunlight (UV light) on the skin. A deficiency of vitamin D can contribute to osteoporosis because without it, calcium will not be fully absorbed by your body.

More information:

This page was published on 19 September, 2011

This page was reviewed on 23 December 2015