Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and are more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist.
In the United States, 10 million people have osteoporosis. Millions more have low bone mass (called osteopenia), placing them at risk for osteoporosis and broken bones. Osteoporosis can strike at any age, but it is most common in older women. Eighty percent of the people in the United States with osteoporosis are women. One out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
How Is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?
Many risk factors can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Some of these things you cannot change and others you can.
- Gender: Women get osteoporosis more often than men.
- Age: The older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
- Body size: Small, thin women are at greater risk.
- Ethnicity: White and Asian women are at highest risk. Black and Hispanic women have a lower risk.
- Family history: Osteoporosis tends to run in families. If a family member has osteoporosis or breaks a bone, there is a greater chance that you will too.
Other risk factors are:
- Sex hormones: Low estrogen levels due to missing menstrual periods or to menopause can cause osteoporosis in women. Low testosterone levels can bring on osteoporosis in men.
- Anorexia nervosa: This eating disorder can lead to osteoporosis.
- Calcium and vitamin D intake: A diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss.
- Medication use: Some medicines increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Activity level: Lack of exercise or long-term bed rest can cause weak bones.
- Smoking: Cigarettes are bad for bones, heart, and lungs.
- Drinking alcohol: Too much alcohol can cause bone loss and broken bones.
Osteoporosis is called the "silent disease" because bone is lost with no signs. You may not know that you have osteoporosis until a strain, bump, or fall causes a bone to break.
A bone mineral density test (called a DXA) is the best way to check your bone health. This test can:
- Diagnose osteoporosis
- Check bone strength
- See if treatments are making the bones stronger.
To learn more about Osteoporosis, including prevention and treatment, read Things To Know About Osteoporosis.
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