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About... Osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to weaken. Bones become increasingly fragile and may fracture easily. The disease often progresses painlessly until a bone breaks, usually in the hip, spine, or wrist. Women are four times more likely than men to develop the disease, mainly due to the loss of estrogen at menopause. Half of all women over age 65 are affected with osteoporosis

What causes osteoporosis?

The cause of osteoporosis is not known, but there are `risk factors' which increase the chance of developing the disease. Family history, diet, and lifestyle all play roles in determining risk for osteoporosis. Some people develop the disease even though they may seem to be at low risk.

Am I at risk for osteoporosis?

Factors that may increase your chances of developing osteoporosis are:

  • Small, thin body frame
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Broken bone after age 40
  • Female
  • Postmenopausal
  • Diet low in dairy products or other sources of calcium
  • Inactive lifestyle with little or no exercise
  • Caucasian or Asian race
  • Some medications, such as thyroid medication or cortisone-like drugs for asthma, arthritis, or other disease
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive use of alcohol

How would I know if I might have osteoporosis?

Often a fracture is the first visible sign of osteoporosis. A family medical history and bone mass measurements are part of a complete assessment. Ask your doctor to help you better understand your own risk and to become aware of prevention and treatment options.

How is osteoporosis treated?

Lifestyle changes and medical treatment are part of a comprehensive program to prevent future fractures. A diet rich in calcium, daily exercise, and drug therapy are treatment options. Good posture and prevention of falls are important in reducing the chance of being injured.

How can I protect myself from having osteoporosis?

  • In childhood, adolescence, and as a young adult, build strong bones so when you begin to lose bone after age 35, you have enough reserves to cover your loss.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream
  • Do weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, hiking, stair climbing
  • If postmenopausal, consider estrogen replacement
  • Consider using calcium supplements
  • Don't smoke
  • Limit alcohol beverages

Where can I get more information?

You may call your doctor or your local medical society for a referral.

National Osteoporosis Foundation Dairy and Nutrition Council

202/223-2226 317/842-3060 (Indianapolis)
219/299-8040 (South Bend)

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