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Low bone mass and osteoporosis pose a major health threat.

•  One out of every 2 women and one in 4 men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his or her lifetime.

•  After a fracture, persons are more likely to have chronic pain, a fear of falling, and depression. They lose independence and have a lower quality of life.

•  One year after a hip fracture, 1 in 4 people dies, 1 can’t walk, and 2 of the 4 can walk but are less mobile than before the fracture.

•  In the U.S., costs for osteoporosis and related fractures have been estimated to be about $14 billion a year.


National Osteoporosis Foundation



NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease National Resource Center

800.624.BONE (624.2663)


Osteoporosis is a loss in bone mass and bone strength. Bones become less dense. This makes them weak and easier to break. Any bone can be affected. The hips, wrists, and spine are the most common sites.

Signs &


Causes &

Risk Factors


Medical Care

Self-Care /


Osteoporosis is a “silent disease.” It can occur without pain. You don’t see or feel changes taking place inside your bones. Often, the first sign is a fracture of the hip, wrist, or spine. When signs and symptoms occur, they include:

•  Gradual loss of height

•  Rounding of the shoulders

•  Sudden back pain

•  Stooped posture

•  Dowager’s hump

Image of doctor with patient.
Image of two women.

•  Being female. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.

•  Low estrogen level. This occurs with menopause.

•  Low testosterone level in men

•  Aging

•  A family history of osteoporosis or broken bones as adults

•  Having a thin, small-framed body

•  Lack of exercise, especially weight-bearing ones, such as walking and dancing

•  Long-term bed rest

•  Low calcium and vitamin D intake or absorption

•  Smoking

•  Drinking too much alcohol

•  Long term use of some medicines, such as oral corticosteroids and antacids with aluminum

•  Having certain health problems, such as anorexia nervosa, an over-active thyroid gland, and rheumatoid arthritis. Persons with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease are at an increased risk, too.

Bone is living tissue. It breaks down and is replaced with new bone. Osteoporosis occurs when new bone does not replace old bone fast enough.

Risk Factors

There is no cure for osteoporosis. The focus is to:

•  Prevent the disease

•  Prevent further bone loss

•  Build new bone

•  All women 65 years of age and older should have a bone mineral density (BMD) screening test. Women who have had a fracture or are at a high risk for osteoporosis should get this test sooner than age 65, as advised by their doctors.

•  Older men should have a BMD test if they have key risk factors for BMD-related fractures:

– A past fracture, possibly due to osteoporosis

– Low body weight. Physical inactivity.

– Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications.

{Note: Follow your doctor’s advice for when and how often to get screening tests for osteoporosis.}

•  The most common test used to measure how dense bones are is a special X-ray known as a DXA or DEXA scan. You lie on a table and a technician moves a scanner above your spine, hip, or wrist. This safe and painless test takes about 10-20 minutes. Test results can identify persons who are at the highest risk for fractures.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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