Osteoporosis, which means porous bones, is a progressive condition in which bones become structurally weak and are more likely to fracture or break. It is sometimes called a “silent” disease, because bone loss often occurs without you knowing it.
Normally, the body forms enough new bone tissue to balance the amount of bone tissue broken down and absorbed by the body. This is a natural process called bone turnover. Throughout the early part of your life, the amount of bone lost and the amount of bone gained remain balanced. Bone mass (size and thickness) increases during childhood and early adult life, reaching its maximum by the age of 20 to 25. After mid-life, more bone is broken down than is formed, and bone mass slowly declines.
Menopause, which usually occurs in a woman’s 40s or 50s, significantly speeds bone loss. Older men also lose bone mass faster as they age. Over time, the imbalance between bone breakdown and formation causes bone mass to decrease, so osteoporosis can develop and fractures occur more easily.
Bones in the hip, spine, and wrist are especially prone to fragility fractures—fractures that would not have occurred in a younger person with stronger bones.
Osteopenia is a more moderate decline in bone mass than occurs in osteoporosis. If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia, or even osteoporosis, you can take steps to prevent further bone loss.