You may think of your bones as the rock-solid frame that makes up your skeleton. But the truth is that your bones are living, growing tissue that keeps changing all the time.
Osteoporosis is what happens when your bones become weak, and can easily break or fracture.
How bone growth works
Your bones constantly lose and grow tissue. Special cells in your body (called osteoclasts) help break down and remove old bone. Other cells (called osteoblasts) help build new bone to replace what is lost.
What causes bone loss?
But if you have osteoporosis, your bones lose density because:
Your body is losing bone mass too quickly
Your body does not make enough new bone fast enough
A combination of both
Osteoporosis risk factors
Some people are more likely than others to get osteoporosis. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Age.The disease is more common in older people
Gender. Osteoporosis affects more women than men
Family history. If one of your parents had osteoporosis, you are more likely to get it
Being petite. Small, thin women are more likely to get osteoporosis
What else impacts bone health?
Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any other health problems or treatments that could contribute to bone loss.
Prescription drugs. Certain medications—like steroids—can cause bone loss; talk with your doctor about the proper medication options for your treatment.
Other diseases. Having other health problems, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, can increase your chances of getting osteoporosis.
Women are more at risk
Women who already have gone through menopause are more likely to get osteoporosis. That's because menopause results in a drop of estrogen levels, which can lead to a loss of bone density in many women.
It's interesting to note that low levels of testosterone also can lead to osteoporosis in men.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about how your hormone levels may be affecting your bones.
Many people don't even know they have osteoporosis because there are no symptoms. You can't feel your bones getting weaker and there's no simple blood test that diagnoses the disease.
Gradual height loss is a sign that the bones in your spine may have slowly, painlessly fractured, making you shorter over time. Be sure that your doctor is keeping track of your height at each annual exam.
Don’t neglect broken bones
A recently broken or fractured bone is another sign that you may have osteoporosis. Even if a fall or accident directly caused the broken bone, having undiagnosed osteoporosis may have contributed to the break because your bones were already weakened.
If you have broken or fractured a bone (wrist, hip, etc.), talk to your doctor about getting tested for osteoporosis.
Bone mineral density test
It is very important to regularly have a bone mineral density (BMD) test if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or if you or your doctor thinks you might have the disease.
This is a painless test—not unlike getting an X-ray—in which a machine uses radiation or sound waves to measure your bone density.
Many people with osteoporosis eventually break a bone in their hip, wrist or spine. About half of all women older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. And up to one in four men will, too. Recovery from a broken bone can be a long process—made especially difficult as we get older.
Making healthy choices can help prevent osteoporosis and avoid broken bones. Get started today!