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What Is Osteoporosis?

Tuesday, March 14, 2023 - 06:33
Contributors to this article: 

Trevor Stamp MD. FRCP
Harris McIlwain MD
Andreli Calin MD FRCP
Guy Slowik FRCS

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become more porous (less solid and less dense), which gradually makes them weaker and more brittle. "Osteo" means bone, and "porosis" means porous.

Bones affected by osteoporosis:

  • Do not have enough solid calcium and phosphorus, and steadily lose their supporting protein framework
  • Become thinner and more fragile than normal
  • Break more easily, particularly the spine, hip, and wrist

To maintain bone density, the body needs enough calcium and other minerals and must produce the proper amounts of several hormones, including estrogen in women and testosterone in men. In addition, an adequate supply of vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium from food and incorporate it into bones.

After age 30, bones slowly decrease in density. If the body cannot regulate the mineral content of bones, they become more fragile. The result is osteoporosis.

The human and economic costs of osteoporosis are significant. As many as 20 percent of the people who break their hip because of osteoporosis die within a year. Over age 70, the mortality within a year may increase to as much as 50 percent, and 30 percent may require help for the activities of daily living. Another 20 percent may be unable to walk for a year afterwards, and up to 50 percent cannot walk as well as they did before the fracture.

That's why preventing, detecting, and treating osteoporosis is so important.

Facts About Osteoporosis

  • Osteoporosis, called "the bone-thinning disease," is a common condition that affects over 25 million people each year.
  • 80 percent of people with osteoporosis are women.
  • 80 percent of women over age 65 have osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis is responsible for one and a half million fractures each year and costs $15 billion for fracture care. Fractures do heal with appropriate measures
  • After menopause, women lose about one to two percent of their bone density each year.
  • Although the vast majority of people with osteoporosis are women, 1.5 million men also have osteoporosis, and another 3.5 million men are at high risk.
  • By the age of 80, nearly half of all women show on an X-ray that they have had a fracture of their spine. Yet many cannot recall any injury or incident that would have caused the fracture.


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