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Osteoporosis Information

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time

General information about Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a serious public health problem. Some 28 million people in the United States are affected by this potentially debilitating disease, which is responsible for 1.5 million fractures (broken bones) annually. These fractures, which are often the first sign of the disease, can affect any bone, but the most common locations are the hip, spine, and wrist. Breaks in the hip and spine are of special concern because they almost always require hospitalization and major surgery, and may lead to other serious consequences, including permanent disability and even death.

Information on how Osteoporosis developes

To understand osteoporosis, it is helpful to understand the basics of bone formation. Bone is living tissue that's constantly being renewed in a two-stage process (resorption and formation) that occurs throughout life. In the resorption stage, old bone is broken down and removed by cells called osteoclasts. In the formation stage, cells called osteoblasts build new bone to replace the old. During childhood and early adulthood, more bone is produced than removed, reaching its maximum mass and strength by the mid-30s. After that, bone is lost at a faster pace than it's formed, so the amount of bone in the skeleton begins to slowly decline. Most cases of osteoporosis occur as an acceleration of this normal aging process. That's referred to as primary osteoporosis. The condition can also be caused by other disease processes or prolonged use of certain medications that result in bone loss--if so, it's called secondary osteoporosis.

Information on how Osteoporosis occurs

Osteoporosis occurs most often in older people and in women after menopause. It affects nearly half of all those, men and women, over the age of 75. Women, however, are five times more likely than men to develop the disease. They have smaller, thinner bones than men to begin with, and they lose bone mass more rapidly after menopause (usually around age 50), when they stop producing a bone-protecting hormone called estrogen. In the five to seven years following menopause, women can lose about 20% of their bone mass. By age 65 or 70, though, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate. As an increasing number of men reach an older age, there's more awareness that osteoporosis is an important health issue for them as well.

Researchers estimate that about 20% of American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. In addition, another 30% of them have osteopenia, which is abnormally low bone density that may eventually deteriorate into osteoporosis, if not treated.

About half of all women over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra.

Women who are white, especially those with a family history of osteoporosis, have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Other risk factors include smoking, eating disorders, low body weight, low amount of calcium in the diet, heavy alcohol consumption, early menopause, absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea), and use of certain medications, such as steroids and anticonvulsants





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