Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become weak and are more likely to fracture or break. It is called a “silent” disease because bone loss often occurs without your knowing it.
Until about age 30, your body forms enough new bone to replace the bone that is naturally broken down by the body (a process called bone turnover). Your highest bone mass (size and thickness) is reached between ages 20 and 25, and it declines after that. After menopause, however, women begin to lose bone at an even faster rate.
Osteoporosis develops when your body cannot replace bone as fast as it is broken down.
In the United States, 44 million Americans are at risk for osteoporosis. Ten million already have the disease. Women make up 80 percent of cases. Certain risk factors make it more likely that you will develop osteoporosis.
Other factors that can lead to osteoporosis include:
If you have gone through menopause (even if you have been taking hormone therapy for a long time), have had a fracture (bone break), or are considering treatment for osteoporosis, a bone density test (DXA scan) can help determine your risk of fracture. If you are a woman over 65, or a man over 70, and do not have any of these risk factors for osteoporosis, you should still have a bone density test.
Too much bone loss (osteoporosis) can lead to fractures, which can cause serious health risks, including disability and premature death.
You can take these steps to prevent bone loss:
Even with a healthy lifestyle, however, you may still need additional therapy to protect against bone loss and fractures. Your doctor may need to prescribe medications such as:
All of these treatment options are effective, but may have side effects. Talk with your doctor to determine whether you need treatment, and which option is best for you.
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