What Is Osteoporosis?

Remember that bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone tissue can't keep up with the loss of old bone tissue.

Thinning, fragile bones are the main symptom of osteoporosis. The main problem with osteoporosis is the dramatically increased risk of sudden bone fractures and resulting falls due to those weak, brittle bones. Most people have no symptoms at all until they experience a spontaneous bone fracture. Women have smaller, thinner bones to begin with and are more susceptible to osteoporosis and bone fractures than men.

We can treat osteoporosis with medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running and weightlifting, which actually help prevent bone loss and strengthen weak bones. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and so brittle that a fall or mild stress such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.

Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women, especially older women who are past menopause, are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

During the early stages of bone loss, you typically have no symptoms. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, your symptoms can include:

  • Back pain from a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone fracture that occurs too easily

Causes of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis weakens bone tissue. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it loses old bone so your overall bone mass increases. Most people achieve peak bone mass in their early 20s. But as we age, the process reverses and we lose bone mass faster than our bodies create it.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the likelihood you'll develop osteoporosis. These include your age, race, sex, family history, lifestyle choices, medical conditions and treatments. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis. And you are at greatest risk if you’re caucasian or Asian. Men and women with small body frames have a higher risk for osteoporosis because they typically have less bone mass to draw from as they age. For people with large frames, the opposite is true.

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