Should YOU Worry About Osteoporosis? – Tufts

In estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, a bone disease that occurs when the body loses calcium from bone faster than it builds new bone, leading to low bone density. This condition increases the risk of a broken bone. Such fractures happen in about half of women and up to one quarter of men over age 50 who have osteoporosis.

Know Your Risk. Osteoporosis literally means porous bone. “Under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb, says Andrea J. Singer, MD, chief medical officer of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. “With osteoporosis, the spaces in the honeycomb become larger.” The bones become weak and more likely to break.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Risk for osteoporosis increases with age (especially after age 65). While this disease can affect men and women of all races, “women are more at risk than men because they tend to have smaller, thinner bones to begin with,” says Singer. “White women and women of Asian descent are at higher risk, and risk for all women increases when levels of estrogen decrease after menopause.” Other risk factors include a family history of osteoporosis or hip fracture, smoking, alcohol intake, inactivity, vitamin D deficiency, and certain medical conditions (including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis) and medications (such as glucocorticoids).

A bone mineral density test is used to determine if you are at risk for or have osteoporosis. This test uses X-rays to determine the mineral density of your bones. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the following groups get a bone density test:

  • women age 65 or older;
  • men age 70 or older;
  • postmenopausal women under age 65 with risk factors; and
  • men age 50 to 69 with risk factors.

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