Osteoporosis is a silent, progressive disease characterized by decreased bone density. As bones lose mass, they become fragile. Without prevention or treatment osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. Broken bones or fractures occur typically in the hip, spine, and wrist.
Who Gets Osteoporosis?
Five Steps to Bone Health
Who Gets Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a major public health threat. In the United States 55 percent of adults over 50—nearly 44 million people—are affected by this disease.
While women are four times more likely than men to develop the disease, men also suffer from osteoporosis. Despite the large number of men affected, osteoporosis in men remains under-diagnosed and under-reported.
Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including approximately 300,000 hip fractures, 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 fractures in other areas of the body. These fractures reduce quality of life and in many cases shorten life expectancy.
Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease” because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a hip to fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Early detection of bone loss helps reverse this condition.
A bone mineral density (BMD) test is the best way to determine your bone health.
The most accurate BMD test is a DXA screening. It is a painless, quick, and easy screening that provides valuable information regarding the health of your bones.
A DXA test can
- Detect low bone density before a fracture occurs
- Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis
- Predict your chances of fracturing in the future
- Determine your rate of bone loss
- Monitor the effects of treatment
When to have a DXA screening
Because osteoporosis rarely causes signs or symptoms until it's advanced, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a bone density test if you are:
- A woman older than age 65 or a man older than age 70, regardless of risk factors
- A postmenopausal woman with at least one risk factor for osteoporosis (see Risk Factors below)
- A man between age 50 and 70 who has at least one osteoporosis risk factor (see Risk Factors below)
- Older than age 50 with a history of a broken bone
- Take medications, such as prednisone, aromatase inhibitors or anti-seizure drugs, that are associated with osteoporosis
- A postmenopausal woman who has recently stopped taking hormone therapy
- A woman who experienced early menopause
- Are a smoker or heavy drinker
Early detection helps improve bone heath and reduce fractures. Schedule a DXA scan.
Certain risk factors are linked to the development of osteoporosis and contribute to an individual’s likelihood of developing the disease. Reducing the number of risk factors that you can control is always the best approach to optimal health.
Risk factors you cannot change:
- Gender – Your chances of developing osteoporosis are greater if you are a woman. Women have less bone tissue and lose bone faster than men because of the changes that happen with menopause.
- Age – The older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis. Your bones become thinner and weaker as you age.
- Body size – Small, thin-boned women are at greater risk.
- Ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk. African American and Hispanic women have a lower but significant risk.
- Family history – Fracture risk may be due, in part, to heredity. People whose parents have a history of fractures also seem to have reduced bone mass and may be at risk for fractures.
Risk factors you can change:
- Sex hormones – Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea), low estrogen level (menopause), and low testosterone level in men can bring on osteoporosis.
- Anorexia nervosa – Characterized by an irrational fear of weight gain, this eating disorder increases your risk for osteoporosis.
- Calcium and vitamin D intake – A lifetime diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss.
- Medication use – Long-term use of glucocorticoids and some anticonvulsants can lead to loss of bone density and fractures.
- Lifestyle – An inactive lifestyle or extended bed rest tends to weaken bones.
- Cigarette smoking – Smoking is bad for bones as well as the heart and lungs.
- Alcohol intake – Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of bone loss and fractures.
View our Osteoporosis prevention tips and schedule a DXA scan.
Five Steps to Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention
- Eat Right – Get your daily recommended amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D.
- Exercise – Engage in regular weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercise.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle – Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Talk to your Healthcare Provider – Talk to your healthcare provider about bone health.
- Get Tested – Have a bone density test and take medication when appropriate.
It’s never too late — or too early — to do something about osteoporosis.
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