Make No Bones About It: You Could Be at Risk for Osteoporosis

Make No Bones About It: You Could Be at Risk for Osteoporosis

Make No Bones About It: You Could Be at Risk for Osteoporosis

You count on your bones to support you. But they need your help to stay strong. About 54 million Americans have low bone mass. That increases the risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which your body loses bone mass or doesn’t make enough bone.

Osteoporosis most often affects those who are 50 or older. That’s because all adults naturally lose bone mass as they age. But some people have a greater risk than others for the significant loss that leads to osteoporosis. Women are at higher risk than men, but men are also at risk. About half of women and a quarter of men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis affects people of all races and ethnic groups, but white and Asian people have the highest risk. A family history of hip fractures and other breaks can also increase risk. And certain medicines can cause bone loss, which increases the risk for osteoporosis. Hormone imbalances and dietary factors can also increase your risk.

What Are the Signs?

Osteoporosis is sometimes called the silent disease because there are often no warnings in the early stages of bone loss. It’s only after your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis that you may show symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic leaving site icon says these symptoms can include:

  • Back pain, caused by a broken or collapsed spinal bone
  • Loss of height
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone that breaks much more easily than expected

Fractures due to osteoporosis can occur in any bone, but they happen most often in bones of the hip, wrist and spine.

What Can You Do?

It is possible to prevent or delay bone loss. It’s best to start prevention efforts when you’re young:

  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.

As you age, you can still take steps to prevent or delay bone loss:

  • Continue eating a nutritious diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to help keep good bone health.
  • Stay physically active as you age. Weight-bearing exercises like walking are especially important for your bones.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your health care provider may recommend that you take medicine to help prevent fractures.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, talk with your doctor about prevention strategies that may be right for you. Your doctor may suggest a bone density test to see how your bones are doing.

Sources: Osteoporosis Overview, leaving site icon Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, National Institutes of Health, 2020; What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It?, leaving site icon Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation; Osteoporosis, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2021

Originally published 8/3/2015; Revised 2017, 2022, 2023