Osteoporosis Symptoms

Treatment for Osteoporosis

We often think about osteoporosis as a disease that only women need to worry about. But men can be affected too. Osteoporosis is characterized by weak, brittle and porous bones. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) say it's the leading cause of hip fractures, a disabling problem that affects many seniors.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 10 million Americans already have osteoporosis and 18 million more have low bone mass, which places them at an increased risk for developing osteoporosis. (Osteopenia is a term used to describe the early demineralization of bone that can develop into osteoporosis.) Eighty percent of those affected by osteoporosis - 8 million Americans - are women. In fact, NOF says one in two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

We may think our bones are solid and unchanging, but they're not. Bone is living tissue. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says special cells called osteoclasts are constantly breaking down old bone as other cells known as osteoblasts are replacing it with new tissue. As people age, more bone is broken down than is replaced. As a result, the insides of the bones become more porous, because much more bone is destroyed than is replaced. This makes the bones weaker.

Although osteoporosis is often thought of as affecting older people, it can strike at any age. NOF says there are also certain things that can put us at a higher risk.

  • women have a higher risk because their bones are often smaller to begin with than a man's
  • thin, small-boned people are more at risk for the same reason
  • those with a family history of osteoporosis are more at risk
  • certain racial or ethnic groups have more risk, including white and Asian women
  • age increases our risk
  • smoking increases the risk

For more information about osteoporosis, please click here.