Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” It causes bones to become brittle and weak. For people with osteoporosis, even a minor slip and fall or stress from sneezing or coughing can cause a fracture. Fractures from osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hips, wrists or spine.


Under a microscope, bone looks like a honeycomb. As osteoporosis progresses, the holes and spaces within the honeycomb become much larger than in people with healthy bones. People with osteoporosis have low bone density and mass.


In children and young adults, bone tissue is replaced faster than it is broken down. By the time most of us reach our 30s, we’ve reached our peak bone density. After that, bone tissue begins to decline faster than it is built up.

Often, people are not aware that they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. Sometimes there are signs someone has osteoporosis before they break or fracture bones. This could include:

  • Back pain
  • Stooped posture and a gradual loss of height.


If you have a close family member who broke a hip, you should consider talking to a doctor about your risk of osteoporosis.

There are a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Some of these are genetic and others relate to lifestyle choices, medical conditions, and medications.

Sedentary lifestyle - Those who spend a lot of time sitting or lying down are at greater risk for osteoporosis than those who exercise regularly. Weight bearing exercises that promote balance and good posture combat bone loss. These include: Walking, Running, Jumping, Dancing and Weight Lifting.


Excessive alcohol consumption-If you regularly consume more than two alcoholic drinks every day, you are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.


Tobacco use-Use of any tobacco products can contribute to bone weakening.

Sex-Osteoporosis is more common in women. In women over 65, nearly 25% experience osteoporosis. Only about 5% of men over the age of 65 develop osteoporosis.


Hormone levels-Lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bones. During menopause, women’s estrogen levels tend to decline. Additionally, treatments for breast cancer can reduce estrogen. Men often see a reduction in testosterone as they age. Many treatments for prostate cancer reduce testosterone levels in men. Overproduction of thyroid hormones can cause bone loss. Taking thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid can also cause bone loss. Sometimes overactive parathyroids and adrenal glands can also contribute to bone weakness.

  • Age - The risk of osteoporosis increases with age.
  • Race - Those of Asian or Caucasian descent are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
  • Genetics - If someone in your family has osteoporosis, particularly your parents or siblings, you may be at greater risk.
  • Body type - Both men and women that have small frames tend to be at a greater risk for osteoporosis. This is because they have less bone mass to begin with for weak bones to recruit from as they age.
  • Diet - Those that consume a low amount of calcium are at higher risk for osteoporosis. Those who have had gastrointestinal surgery might have trouble absorbing some nutrients such as calcium. Eating disorders which cause someone to severely restrict food intake and become underweight weaken bones in both men and women
  • Medications - Some steroids, such as prednisone and cortisone interfere with bone-rebuilding. Osteoporosis may also result from treatment of any of the following: Transplant rejection, Seizures, Gastric reflux and Cancer.
  • Pre-existing conditions - People with the following conditions may be at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis: Rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple myeloma, Lupus, Cancer, Kidney or liver disease and IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome).

A bone mineral density test is performed with a dual-energy x-ray absorpitiometry scan (DXA). It is an enhanced form of x-ray technology. Sometimes certain types of ultrasounds and CT scans help diagnose osteoporosis, but this is less common than DXA scanning.


Women who are 65 years old or older are encouraged to speak to their doctors about getting screened for osteoporosis. Women ages 50 to 64 with risk factors such as having parents that broke their hips.


Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about osteoporosis.

There are some factors under your control that may reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

  • Protein - There is conflicting evidence on protein’s impact on bone density. Some people who don’t eat enough protein, such as vegetarians and vegans might be at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Calcium - Both men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 need to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. As women turn 50 and men turn 70, the daily amount increases to 1,200 milligrams per day. Calcium supplements help those unable to consume enough calcium through diet alone.
  • Vitamin D - In order to properly absorb calcium, your body also needs Vitamin D. It’s possible to get some vitamin D from sunlight. But those who live at a high latitude, spend lots of time indoors, or regularly wear sunscreen often have to take vitamin D supplements. Adults ages 51-70 should ingest 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D every day. After the age of 70, that number increases to 800. You can safely ingest up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D every day.

Exercise helps you build strong bones which will slow bone loss. It’s best to start in adolescence and continue exercising throughout your life.It’s best to combine strength training with weight-bearing exercises and balance exercises. Swimming, cycling, and exercising on low-impact machines such as the elliptical machine are excellent for cardiovascular health. But they do not improve bone health. Walking, stair climbing, skipping rope, jumping, skiing and other impact-causing sports strengthen the bones.


Being either overweight or underweight can negatively affect bone health.

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