Osteoporosis is a bone disease that affects more than 53 million Americans nationwide. It causes bones to become weak and brittle, resulting in higher risk of a bone break or fracture. The most common Osteoporosis-related fractures occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
Causes of Osteoporosis
The bones in your body are really organs, even though they primarily consist of collagen. As you age, old bone is removed and new bone is added. When you are young, new bone is added faster than old bone is removed, making your bones denser and reach their “peak.” After about age 30, the opposite happens and old bone starts to exceed amounts of new bone.
Who’s at Risk for Osteoporosis?
Studies show that one in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Women have a higher risk because they normally have lighter, thinner bones and longer life spans than men do.
Developing Osteoporosis partly depends on your “peak bone mass,” or how much new bone you gained in your childhood to late twenties. The higher your peak bone mass, the denser your bones are, and the less likely you are to develop the disease. However, there are biological factors put some at higher risk than others:
- Age – The older you are, the greater your risk, because bones become thinner and weaker as you age
- Body size – Small, thin-boned women are at greater risk
- Ethnicity – White and Asian women are at highest risk
- Family history – Osteoporosis can be genetic. If one or more immediate family member has it, you may need to be screened earlier
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because you can’t feel your bones weakening in the early stages. But a later symptoms might include:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- Stooped posture
- A bone that breaks more easily than expected
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately and discuss having a bone density test.
Can Osteoporosis be Prevented or Treated?
Medications, a healthy diet and exercise can help prevent bone loss or keep bones from weakening further, but there’s no cure for Osteoporosis.