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Preventing and Treating Brittle Bones and Osteoporosis

In the United States today, more than 40 million people either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass.

Bone and Bone Loss

Bone is living, growing tissue. It is made mostly of collagen, a protein that provides a soft framework, and calcium phosphate, a mineral that strengthens and hardens the framework.

Collagen and calcium combine to make bone flexible, strong, and able to withstand stress. The bones and teeth contain more than 99 percent of the body's calcium. The remaining 1 percent is found in the blood.

Throughout life, old bone is removed and new bone is added to the skeleton. During childhood and teenage years, new bone is added faster than old bone is removed. As a result, bones become larger, heavier, and denser. Around age 30, bone loss slowly begins to exceed bone formation.

Women lose bone fastest in the first few years after menopause, then more slowly. Osteoporosis develops when bone is lost too quickly or replaced too slowly.

Fast Facts

  • Osteoporosis weakens the bones, making them more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, or wrist.
  • Although osteoporosis can occur at any age, it is most common in older women. Eighty percent of Americans with osteoporosis are women.
  • To keep your bones strong and slow bone loss, eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercise regularly, and do not drink alcohol in excess or smoke.

To Find Out More

Ask Your Health Professional

To discuss osteoporosis and bone health with your health professional, take along a list of questions (or use this one) to help you remember what you want to know.

  • How can I know that I'm getting enough vitamin D and calcium?
  • What is the condition of my bones now, relative to my age and gender?
  • Am I at increased risk for fractures?
  • What exercises should I do to help keep my bones strong?
  • Do I need a bone density test?
  • Should I be taking a prescription medication for osteoporosis?
  • Will menopause affect my bone strength?
  • What else can I do to prevent or treat osteoporosis?

Winter 2011 Issue: Volume 5 Number 4 Page 11