Osteoporosis, or thinning bones, can result painful fractures. Risk factors for osteoporosis include aging, being female, low body weight, low sex hormones or menopause, smoking, and some medications. Prevention and treatment include calcium and vitamin D, exercise, and osteoporosis medications.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means “porous bones.” Our bones are in their strongest position at about age 30, then begin to lose density. More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, which is significant bone loss that increases the risk of fracture. About half of women 50 and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
You might not even realize you have osteoporosis until you have a fracture or an obvious change in posture. In fact, you could have significant bone loss without even knowing it. Back pain, caused by changes in the vertebrae, may be the first sign that something is wrong.
Osteoporosis and Fractures
Osteoporosis is the underlying cause of 1.5 million fractures every year. Spinal compression fractures are the most common — tiny fractures that can cause the vertebrae to collapse and alter the shape of the spine. Hip fractures can cause lasting mobility problems and even increase the risk of death. Wrist, pelvic, and other fractures are also common in people with osteoporosis.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Our bones are constantly being rebuilt throughout our lifetime. Bones are made up of collagen, a protein that provides the basic framework, and calcium phosphate, a mineral that hardens the bone. As we age, we lose more bones than we replace. The greatest change in a woman’s bone density comes in five to seven years after menopause.
Does Everyone Get Osteoporosis?
Bone loss is a natural part of aging, but not everyone will lose enough bone density to develop osteoporosis. However, the older you are, the greater your chance of having osteoporosis. Women’s bones are generally thinner than men’s and bone density has a rapid decline for a time after menopause, so it’s not surprising that about 80% of Americans with osteoporosis are women.
Do Men Get Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is much more common in women, but men are at risk, too. In fact, about 25% of men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Osteoporosis may be under-diagnosed in men because it is often considered a “woman’s disease” and men may not be tested.