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Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and are more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. In the United States, 10 million people have osteoporosis. Millions more have low bone mass (called osteopenia), placing them at risk for osteoporosis and broken bones.

Osteoporosis can strike at any age, but it is most common in older women. Eighty percent of the people in the United States with osteoporosis are women. One out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Osteoporosis is called the "silent disease" because bone is lost with no signs. A woman may not know that she has osteoporosis until a strain, bump, or fall causes a bone to break. However, the disease can be diagnosed by Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) which measures the bone mineral density (BMD). Maximal BMD occurs at age 30 in both males and females. This BMD is used as the standard to which all measured BMDs are compared. If the measured BMD is too much below the standard value, it is an indication of osteoporosis.


Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance between bone formation and bone resorption (gradual loss of bone) - either bone resorption is excessive, or bone formation is diminished. The underlying mechanisms for the two processes are complex and not fully understood. They depend on certain risk factors such as genetics, sex hormones, calcium and vitamin D intake, and others.


Treatment for osteoporosis includes:

  • A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • An exercise plan.
  • A healthy lifestyle.
  • Medications, such as bisphosphonates, raloxifene, calcitonin and parathyroid hormone.



National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, USA.