Osteoporosis: Evaluate Your Risk
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes rapid 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.
What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?
Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. This happens partly because
men have larger, stronger bones. Men and women older than age 50 are at the greatest
risk for developing osteoporosis. One in 2 women and 1 in 4 men in this age group
will fracture a bone because of osteoporosis. People who are white or Asian are more
likely to develop osteoporosis than people who are Hispanic or African-American.
Other risk factors that may increase your chances for developing osteoporosis include:
Having small bones
Lack of physical activity or exercise
Drinking too much alcohol
Have a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
Previous fracture, especially after age 50
Taking certain medications, for example long-term use of corticosteroids
Family history of osteoporosis
Many people are unaware 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 health care 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
If you're diagnosed with osteoporosis, a number of medications are available to treat
it. Talk to your health care provider about the type of treatment that's best for
Can osteoporosis be prevented?
To help prevent osteoporosis:
Talk with your health care 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 health
care provider before beginning any exercise.
Talk with your health care 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 health care provider to quit.
Don't drink alcohol in excess.