Osteoporosis affects more than 10 million Americans over age 50, with women four times more likely to develop it than men. Half of all women over 50 will develop osteoporosis. Estrogen deficiency is one of the main causes of bone loss in women during and after menopause. Women may lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause.
Approximately two million American men already have osteoporosis, and about 12 million more are at risk. Men older than 50 are more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than they are to get prostate cancer.
Factors that increase the risk for osteoporosis include:
- Over age 65 (both men and women)
- Caucasian or Asian heritage
- History of bone fracture after age 50
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Thin, small or petite body build
- Low bone mass (determined by bone densitometry DEXA scan)
- Low testosterone levels (in men)
Lifestyle factors that increase risk include:
- Sedentary habits
- Regular alcohol use
- Anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders
- Low consumption of calcium and vitamin D over a lifetime
- Long-term use of corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, thyroid medications or seizure medications
- Weight-loss surgery
If you don’t get tested for osteoporosis, you might not know you have it until you break a bone.
Treatment for osteoporosis
If a bone mineral density test shows that your bones are thinning or that you have osteoporosis, your health care provider may prescribe a type of medication called bisphosphonate. This class of drugs slows the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that break down and resorb bone. By slowing bone resorption, the other bone cells, osteoblasts, have more time to rebuild new bone.
Lifestyle changes, such as weight-bearing exercise and calcium and vitamin D supplements, also may be recommended by your health care provider.