Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to weaken and become brittle. It occurs when the natural regrowth of bone tissue slows and new bone does not replace the old bone. As the bones weaken and become brittle, the risk of fractures increases. Fractures are most likely to occur in the hip, wrist or spine. In severe cases, the stress of coughing or beding over can cause a fracture.
While osteoporosis can affect both men and women, older women who are past menopause are at the highest risk. Other risk factors include:
- Sedentary lifestyle, or sitting for long periods of time
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Tobacco use
Certain medical conditions also increase the risk of osteoporosis:
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Kidney or liver disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The first sign of osteoporosis is often a bone fracture. However a diagnoses requires lab tests or imaging. Bone density screening is recommended for postmenopausal women at age 65 and men at age 70.
Other signs may include:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
While there is no cure for osteoporosis, medications, eating a healthy diet and doing weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss and strengthen weak bones. For some women, hormone therapy can also be beneficial.