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Ohio State University Extension

Senior Series



Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to fragile bones and low bone mass. Osteoporosis can weaken bones and cause them to break easily, especially those in the wrist, spine, or hip. It is often called “the silent disease” because bone loss occurs without symptoms. Many people may not know that they have osteoporosis until they experience a fracture due to weak bones.

Osteoporosis is a major public health threat in the United States. It is estimated that approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 34 million have low bone mass, putting them at increased risk for developing the disease. One out of every two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Each year, osteoporosis is responsible for 300,000 hip fractures, 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 other types of fractures. Expenses for these fractures are estimated to be approximately $14 billion each year.

While osteoporosis is thought of as an older person’s disease, it can happen at any age. Bone is a living tissue that is constantly changing. Throughout your lifetime, new bone is added to the skeleton and old bone is removed. New bone is added faster during childhood and teenage years, resulting in larger, heavier, and denser bones. Bone continues to be added until around age 30, when peak bone mass is reached. After age 30, bone loss slowly begins to exceed bone formation. Osteoporosis develops when bone loss exceeds bone replacement.

An individual’s chances of developing osteoporosis depend on certain risk factors, some that can be changed and others that cannot. They are as follows:

Risk factors that you cannot change:

Risk factors that you can change:

Your doctor can diagnose osteoporosis through a bone mineral density (BMD) test. BMD tests measure bone density in the wrist, hip, and spine, the most common sites of fractures from osteoporosis. This test can measure low bone density, predict your chances of having a fracture in the future, detect if you have already had a fracture, and determine your rate of bone loss and monitor the effects of treatment at yearly intervals.

Treatment of osteoporosis focuses on diet, physical activity, fall prevention, medication, and changing behaviors that are linked to the development of the disease.

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to live a healthy lifestyle and practice behaviors that promote positive bone health. As we age, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with osteoporosis and to talk with a physician if you think you might be at risk for osteoporosis to determine if testing is necessary.


American Dietetic Association. (2001). Position Paper. “Nutrition and Women’s Health.” Downloaded 1/5/05 from:

National Institutes of Health, Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. (2004). “Fast Facts on Osteoporosis.” Downloaded 1/5/05 from:

National Institutes of Health, Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. (2003). “Osteoporosis and Arthritis: Two Common but Different Conditions.” Downloaded 1/5/05 from:

National Institutes of Health, Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. (2002). “Use of Bisphosphonates in Metabolic Bone Diseases.” Downloaded 1/5/05 from:

Click here for the PDF version of this Fact Sheet.

By Jenny Even, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Hamilton County, Ohio State University Extension.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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