Osteoporosis: Evaluate Your Risk
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Older Adults

Osteoporosis: Evaluate Your Risk

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes thinning of bones. Over time, this weakens the bones and can make them more likely to break. It can affect any bone, but the hip, spine, and wrist are most often involved. It's often called a "silent disease" because people can't feel their bones getting weaker.

Who is at risk for osteoporosis?

Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. This happens because of hormonal differences. Also men have larger, stronger bones than women.  Men and women older than age 50 are at the greatest risk for osteoporosis. One in 2 women and 1 in 4 men in this age group will fracture a bone because of osteoporosis. Women who are non-Hispanic white or Asian are more likely to get osteoporosis than women who are Hispanic or African American. For men, osteoporosis is more common in non-Hispanic whites.

Other risk factors that may increase your chances for osteoporosis include:

  • Small bones

  • Lack of physical activity or exercise

  • Smoking

  • Drinking too much alcohol

  • A diet low in calcium and vitamin D

  • A past break (fracture), especially after age 50

  • Being postmenopausal

  • Taking certain medicines, for instance long-term use of corticosteroids

  • Family history of osteoporosis

  • Other medical conditions, such as endocrine or hormonal diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, types of cancer, HIV/AODS, and anorexia nervosa

Many people don't know they have osteoporosis until they have advanced symptoms. These may include a broken hip or wrist, low back pain, or a hunched back.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

If your healthcare provider thinks that you have osteoporosis, a simple, painless test to measure bone mineral density can confirm it. The test is called a bone density test.

If you're diagnosed with osteoporosis, a number of medicines are available to treat it. Talk with your healthcare provider about the type of treatment that's best for you.

Can osteoporosis be prevented?

To help prevent osteoporosis:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about screening tests for osteoporosis.

  • Do regular weight-bearing exercise. This means activities that work your legs against gravity. The best exercises are walking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, playing racquet sports, and hiking. If you've been inactive, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about your diet and whether or not you need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement.

  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, get help from your healthcare provider to quit.

  • Don't drink too much alcohol.

Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.