Literally translated, osteoporosis means porous bones. Osteoporosis is a major, underlying cause of fractures in older people. Because it's not possible to feel bones weakening and the disease progresses without symptoms, osteoporosis is often referred to as the "silent disease."

A person with osteoporosis may not discover she has the problem until a bone breaks. Sometimes bones are fragile enough to break from an act as benign as a sneeze. Though the disease primarily affects women due to changes associated with menopause, men can be affected too. One out of every two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their life. Bones in the hip, spine, and wrist break most often.

Building strong bones during childhood can help prevent osteoporosis. However an estimated 34 million Americans currently have osteopenia-low bone mass-according to the National Institutes of Health. Ask your doctor to determine if bone loss has started as there are preventive actions you can take to slow the condition.

Here's a look at the debilitating condition:

  • 5: The number of steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF):
    1. Find out your risk of osteoporosis from your physician.
    2. Be sure to get the calcium and vitamin D you need every day (see recommended amounts below).
    3. Commit to a regular exercise regime that includes weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
    4. Quit smoking and limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages.
    5. If advised by your health care provider, take an osteoporosis medication.
  • 5: Risk factors for developing osteoporosis that you cannot change:
    1. Gender. Women have less bone tissue and lose bone faster.
    2. Age. Bones weaken as we advance in years.
    3. Body size. Small, thin-boned women are at greater risk.
    4. Ethnicity. Caucasian and Asian women are more prone to developing osteoporosis. African American and Hispanic women have a lower but significant risk.
    5. Family history. If your parents got fractures, you may inherit the tendency.
  • 18: The age at which 85 to 90 percent of adult bone mass is acquired.
  • 99: Percent of the body's calcium contained in the bones and teeth (the remaining one percent is in the blood)
  • 10,000,000: Number of Americans who are estimated to have osteoporosis, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). (8 million are women; 2 million are men.)
  • 80: Percentage of individuals affected by osteoporosis who are women, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOP).
  • 20: Percentage of bone mass that women can lose in the five to seven years after menopause, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis.
  • 4: Number of times more likely a woman is to develop osteoporosis than a man, according to the NOP.
  • $19 billion: The amount spent in 2005 because of osteoporosis-related fractures.
  • 2,000,000 fractures resulted from osteoporosis in 2005. Among them there were:
    • 297,000 hip fractures
    • 547,000 vertebral fractures
    • 397,000 wrist fractures
    • 135,000 pelvic fractures
    • 675,000 fractures elsewhere
  • 2025: The year experts predict that these costs will rise to approximately $25.3 billion.
  • 15,802: The number of people over age 65 who died as a result of injuries from falls in 2005.
  • 24: The percent of hip fracture patients aged 50 and over who die in the year following their fracture.
  • 1,200: Recommended amount of calcium, in milligrams, that should be taken daily by women over the age of 50, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, taking a supplement may not be necessary if you get enough from your diet. Good food sources of calcium include: Low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream; dark green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, collard greens, bok choy, and spinach; sardines and salmon with bones; tofu; almonds; and foods fortified with calcium, such as orange juice, cereals, and breads.
  • 1,000: Recommended amount of calcium, in milligrams, that should be taken daily by men between the ages of 51 and 70, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • 1,200: Recommended amount of calcium, in milligrams, that should be taken daily by men over the age of 70, according to NIH.
  • 600: Recommended amount of vitamin D in international units (IU) that should be taken daily to the age of 70. Men and women over 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Many people obtain enough vitamin D naturally if they are in the sun without sunscreen for 10 to 15 minutes at least twice a week. But studies have shown that vitamin D production decreases in the elderly, in people who are housebound, and for everyone during the winter months.


National Institute on Aging
Osteoporosis: The Bone Thief

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Osteoporosis or Low Bone Mass at the Femur Neck or Lumbar Spine in Older Adults: United States, 2005-2008

The National Osteoporosis Foundation
Fast Facts