What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a preventable, treatable bone disease. It is characterized by low bone mass, which leads to an increased risk of fractures, especially of the wrists, hips, and spine. Risk factors for the condition may include age, bone loss due to medical conditions, and suboptimal bone growth during childhood.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis, which means "porous bone," is a disease characterized by low bone mass (bone thinning) that leads to fragile bones and an increased risk of fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. Men as well as women are affected by the condition, which can be prevented and treated.
 
Osteoporosis is the most common of the bone diseases that affect Americans. Although it is the cause of most fractures in older people, the condition is silent and undetected, in many cases, until a fracture occurs.
 

What Causes It?

Osteoporosis may be caused by several factors, including:
 
  • Age
  • Accelerated bone loss during menopause
  • Suboptimal bone growth during childhood and adolescence, resulting in failure to reach peak bone mass
  • Bone loss as a result of medical conditions, eating disorders, or certain medications and medical treatments.
 
(Click Causes of Osteoporosis for more information.)
 

Statistics on Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a major health risk for 28 million Americans. In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have it, and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease. American women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. One in eight men over age 50 and one out of every two women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his or her lifetime.
 
This disease is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including:
 
  • An estimated 300,000 hip fractures
  • Approximately 700,000 vertebral (spinal) fractures
  • Approximately 250,000 wrist fractures
  • More than 300,000 fractures at other sites.
     
In people with osteoporosis, fractures can occur from normal lifting and bending, as well as from falls. Furthermore, these fractures, particularly vertebral fractures, can be associated with disabling pain.
 
Of all the fractures, hip fractures have the greatest impact. One in five people will not live more than one year following an osteoporotic hip fracture. This means that people can, and do, die as a result of hip fractures. Fifty percent of those people experiencing a hip fracture will be unable to walk without assistance, and 28 percent will require long-term care.
 
Osteoporosis research has enhanced our knowledge about how to maintain a healthy skeleton throughout life. This has led to progress in understanding the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. Every research advance brings us closer to eliminating the problems caused by this disease.
 
(Click Osteoporosis Statistics to learn more.)
Lifestyle Changes to Help Your Bones

Osteoporosis Information

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