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Osteoporosis: Fast Facts

Reviewed By: Vikas Garg, M.D., MSA

  • Osteoporosis is a disorder in which the bones lose mass and density.

  • This condition is most common in women during and after menopause. This is because of the reduction in estrogen levels deprives the body of the hormone's ability to protect against bone loss.

  • Osteoporosis also strikes many elderly men. By age 75 it is equally common in men and women.

  • Less frequently, osteoporosis can affect young people, such as teen-age girls who don't eat enough, overexert themselves and stop menstruating regularly, a condition known as female athlete triad.

  • Osteoporosis is more common in fair-skinned than dark-skinned people.

  • Low levels of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals contribute to weakening of the bones.

  • In most cases, osteoporosis presents no symptoms in its early stages. It may cause back pain as it progresses.

  • As the bones become increasingly weak, osteoporosis may lead to fractures.

  • The most common sites for fractures caused by osteoporosis are the spine, hip, and wrist.

  • Mild falls and even coughing, sneezing or bending over can all lead to fractures in someone with osteoporosis.

  • Osteoporosis usually can be revealed through tests that measure bone density.

  • Hormone replacement therapy has long been the primary treatment for osteoporosis for women. However, recently concerns have been raised about the potential adverse health effects of hormone replacement medications.

  • Hormone replacement therapy is now rarely used as a first line of treatment for osteoporosis.

  • Other drugs are available that help people increase their bone density.

  • People can take several steps to reduce their risk of suffering fractures related to osteoporosis. The most effective preventive measure is to build bone mass at a young age through adequate exercise and a nutritious diet so that a store of strong bone material is built up for later years.

  • However, people of all ages can strengthen their bones through lifestyle changes such as improved diet, regular exercise and not smoking.



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