*Please note: This slide show represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones weak and more likely to break.
Every year in the United States, osteoporosis causes about two million broken bones.
One in every two women and up to one in every four men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.
Our bones are alive. Throughout our lives, our bodies are breaking down old bone and building new bone to replace it. This process is called bone remodeling.
During our teen years, our skeletons grow rapidly. Until about age 30, our bodies build new bone faster than they remove old bone.
Most of us reach our “peak bone mass” – the most bone we’ll ever have – by the time we’re 30.
After age 30, we all slowly start to lose bone mass, breaking down old bone faster than we can build new bone to replace it.
Our bones store most of the calcium in our bodies.
Our bodies need calcium to build new bones and help our muscles, nerves, and cells work properly.
Your body gets the calcium it needs in two ways.
- From food or supplements that contain calcium, or
- By "borrowing" calcium from your bones. If this isn't replaced, your body will make less new bone and over time your bones will get weaker.
Osteoporosis is often called a "silent disease". You can't feel your bones getting weaker. It happens slowly, over many years. You might not know you have osteoporosis until you break a bone.
Bone fractures due to osteoporosis can occur anywhere in the body, but they happen most often in the spine, hips, and wrists.
Spinal fractures may cause gradual loss of height, stooped posture, and severe back pain.
Some people have a higher risk than others for getting osteoporosis.
- Older people. Anyone can get osteoporosis, but it’s most common in people over age 60.
- People who had a parent with osteoporosis or a hip fracture.
- Beginning around menopause, women are at higher risk than men for fractures caused by osteoporosis.
- The hormone estrogen helps a woman’s body keep a balance between breaking down old bone and building new bone.
- But around menopause, the body starts making less estrogen. Bone loss speeds up when there’s less estrogen in the body.
Bone loss can be caused by another disease or by a medication. This is called secondary osteoporosis.
Diseases that can cause bone loss include:
- Kidney or liver disease,
- Some types of cancer,
- Eating disorders,
- Losing too much calcium in urine, and
- An overactive thyroid gland.
Many different kinds of medications may cause bone loss. These include medications used to treat cancer, diabetes, heartburn, and other diseases.
Osteopenia means that your bones are thinner and weaker than normal.
People with osteopenia are at high risk for developing osteoporosis.
Some things that increase your risk for osteoporosis cannot be changed, such as:
- Your age,
- Your sex, and
- Your family history
But there are things you can do to prevent or slow down the bone loss that leads to osteoporosis…
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of calcium
- Take calcium and vitamin D supplement as needed
Talk to your doctor for the daily amounts that are right for you.
- Stay active. Physical activity helps keep your bones strong. Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Take care not to fall. If you have weak bones, falling can easily cause a fracture. Activities like tai chi or yoga can improve your strength and balance and help prevent falls.
- Both smoking and drinking alcohol can cause bone loss.
- If you're a smoker, talk with your doctor about quitting.
- If you choose to drink alcohol, don't drink too much.
Making bone-healthy choices can help you keep your bones strong. For life.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. Osteopenia. https://familydoctor.org/condition/osteopenia/
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/osteoporosis-and-spinal-fractures/. Last reviewed January 2016.
- American Bone Health. Calcium and Vitamin D: Dynamic Duo for Bone Health. 2013. https://americanbonehealth.org/downloadable-materials/
- American Bone Health. Frequently Asked Questions. Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. https://americanbonehealth.org/frequently-asked-questions/
- American Bone Health. Taking Charge of Your Bone Health. 2019. https://americanbonehealth.org/downloadable-materials/
- An Overview of Secondary Osteoporosis. https://www.verywellhealth.com/secondary-osteoporosis-overview-4584932
- Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation. How Bones Develop. https://whenithurtstomove.org/about-orthopaedics/how-bones-develop/
- Harvard Health Publishing. Slowing bone loss with weight-bearing exercise. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/slowing-bone-loss-with-weight-bearing-exercise
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Calcium. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium/
- Mayo Clinic. Exercising with osteoporosis: Stay active the safe way. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/in-depth/osteoporosis/art-20044989
- MedlinePlus. Calcium and bones. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002062.htm
- MedlinePlus. Osteoporosis. https://medlineplus.gov/osteoporosis.html
- Mirza F, Canalis E. Secondary Osteoporosis: Pathophysiology and Management. Eur J Endocrinol. 2015 Sep; 173(3): R131–R151. doi: 10.1530/EJE-15-0118
- National Osteoporosis Foundation. What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It? https://www.nof.org/patients/what-is-osteoporosis/
- National Osteoporosis Foundation. Osteoporosis Fast Facts. https://cdn.nof.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Osteoporosis-Fast-Facts.pdf
- NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases Nation Resource Center. Exercise for Your Bone Health. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/exercise/exercise-your-bone-health
- NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases Nation Resource Center. Osteoporosis Overview. https://bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview
- NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases Nation Resource Center. What is Bone? https://bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/what-is-bone
- Warriner AH, Patkar NM, Curtis JR, et al. Which fractures are most attributable to osteoporosis? J Clin Epidemiol. 2011 Jan;64(1):46-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2010.07.007
Slide Show - Understanding Bone Health and Osteoporosis
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