What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes rapid thinning of bones. Over time, this weakens the bones making them more likely to break. It can affect any bone, but the hip, spine, and wrist are most often involved.
What are the risk factors?
Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis because men have larger, stronger bones. Men and women older than age 50 have the highest risk of developing the disease, and it will cause 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men in this age group will fracture a bone.
Other risk factors that may increase your chances of developing osteoporosis include:
- Having small bones
- Not exercising or having a lack of physical activity
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Having a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- Have previously fractured a bone, especially after age 50
- Being postmenopausal
- Taking certain medicines, for example, long-term use of corticosteroids
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
Many people are unaware they are affected by this disease until they have advanced symptoms. These may include a broken hip or wrist, low back pain, or a hunched back.
Do you have osteoporosis?
If your healthcare provider thinks that you have osteoporosis, a simple, painless test to measure bone mineral density can confirm it. The test is called a bone density test. If you receive a positive diagnosis, there are several medicines available to treat the disease. Talk to your healthcare provider about the type of treatment that’s best for you.
Tips to prevent osteoporosis
- Talk with your healthcare provider about screening tests.
- Do regular weight-bearing exercise. This means activities that work your legs against gravity. The best exercises are walking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, playing racquet sports, and hiking. If you’ve been inactive for a while, check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about your diet and whether or not you need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement.
- Don’t smoke. If you smoke, get help from your healthcare provider to quit.
- Don’t drink alcohol in excess.