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Osteoporosis - The Most Common Bone Disease

It is estimated that one out of five women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis – a thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone over time. The disease occurs when the body fails to create enough new bone, or when your body reabsorbs too much old bone. Bones that are less dense are weak and break more easily. About half of all women over fifty will suffer fractures of the hip, wrist, or vertebrae.

Osteoporosis - The Most Common Bone Disease

The main cause of osteoporosis is the drop in estrogen in women with menopause. Other causes can include:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Long term use (more than three months) of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone or methylprednisolone
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Eating disorders

Women with a family history of osteoporosis have an increased risk of developing the disease, particularly in conjunction with other risk factors, such as:

  • Hormone treatment for breast cancer
  • Low body weight
  • Smoking
  • Too little calcium in your diet
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol

While there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, there are signs and tests that can measure how much bone you have and help predict your risk for bone fractures in the future. Learn more about bone density testing at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004464/.


There are different kinds of medications that can be used to prevent and treat osteoporosis including biphosphonates, which are taken by mouth one a week or once a month, or, in some cases, intravenously; or Raloxifene, which is similar to the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, and others. Your AOA healthcare provider can help determine which medication is right for you.

Exercise can play an important role in mitigating the risk of fractures. While you should avoid any exercise that presents the risk of falling, or high impact exercise, you should consider:

  • Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, tennis, dancing
  • Resistance exercise, such as free weights, stretch bands, weight machines
  • Rowing machines
  • Riding a stationary bicycle
  • Balancing exercise, such as yoga or tai chi


It is important to get at least 1200 milligrams of calcium each day and 800-1,000 units of vitamin D3. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Your AOA doctor may recommend supplements to insure you’re getting the calcium and vitamin D that you need. In addition you should eat a diet with plenty of calcium, vitamin D and protein, including:

  • Cheese
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, chard, kale, and collard greens
  • Low-fat milk
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tofu
  • Yogurt

Finally, it is very important to stop unhealthy habits that can contribute to osteoporosis, such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

Talk with your AOA healthcare provider about your risk of osteoporosis, and what steps you can take to prevent or slow the disease.

Learn more about how to prevent osteoporosis and fractures at: