Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years, often after age 30, and is usually only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Osteoporosis occurs when bone loss happens faster than bone growth. While our bones cycle through loss and growth normally throughout our lives, there are various factors which may increase the rate of bone loss and thus increase the risk for osteoporosis. These risk factors include: • Increasing age • Female sex • Menopause • Family history of osteoporosis • Poor nutrition (low calcium and/or vitamin D) • Too little sunlight • Low body weight • Lack of exercise • Smoking • Heavy alcohol use • Hormonal conditions (low levels of estrogen or testosterone) • Other medical conditions like certain cancers, diabetes, and asthma

Most people who have osteoporosis have no symptoms until a bone breaks, although some may experience severe back pain, and a loss of height due to a stooped posture.

Osteoporosis is diagnosed using a test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which is used to measure how dense one’s bones are. A doctor may also order other blood and urine tests if there are other suspected problems such as hormone imbalances. Treatment of osteoporosis is aimed at slowing down the bone loss and lowering the risk for bone fractures. This usually involves changes in lifestyle, like: • Eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D • Stopping/avoiding cigarette smoking • Limiting alcohol intake • Exercising regularly, especially weight-bearing and strength-training exercises Medications, like bisphosphonates, and parathyroid hormone therapy also help prevent bone loss and increase bone density. In addition to these two, individuals with osteoporosis also need safety precautions since they have a higher chance of breaking their bones when they fall or trip. Strategies include removing loose wires and clutter at home, placing grab bars inside bathrooms, making sure the house is well-lit, and wearing sturdy, rubber-soled shoes.

It is best to start building strong bones as early as childhood. This is done by having a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and having regular weight-bearing exercise. Other ways to reduce the risk for osteoporosis include avoiding or stopping cigarette smoking and limiting alcohol intake. Those with a higher risk for osteoporosis, such as women in menopause, may also ask a doctor if they need to take medications used to prevent bone loss.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024