What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis causes bones to become thin and brittle, making them more likely to break. Bones naturally become thinner as you grow older. Old bone dissolves and is absorbed into the body faster than new bone is made. As this occurs, the bones lose minerals (such as calcium), heaviness (mass), and structure, making them weaker. The thicker your bones are, the longer it takes to develop osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a silent, progressive disease marked by decreased bone density and increased bone fragility, with a higher risk of fracture. In the U.S., more than 28 million people are at high risk of developing osteoporosis. Up to 1.5 million fractures a year are attributable to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is largely preventable for most people. Prevention of this disease is very important because, while there are treatments for osteoporosis, there is currently no cure. There are five steps to prevent osteoporosis. No one step alone is enough to prevent osteoporosis but all five may.
Five Steps to Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention:
- Get your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D
- Engage in regular weight-bearing exercise
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
- Talk to your health care provider about bone health
- When appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication
Soon, the Center for Women’s Health will also offer VFA (vertebral fracture assessment). Vertebral fractures frequently occur in seniors and studies have found that these fractures are associated with an increased risk of spine or hip fractures, regardless of bone mineral density. It is possible to screen for vertebral fractures at the same time as being tested for bone mineral density.