It's slips and falls, not sticks and stones, that may break the bones of people with osteoporosis. According to the American College of Rheumatology, approximately 8 million women and 2 million men have the disease, which weakens bones and makes them more likely to break. Approximately half of all women over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, the National Institute of Health (NIH) reports.

Risk Factors

Besides being a post-menopausal woman, the following factors can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, according to the National Women's Health Information Center and the NIH.


  • Being small and thin (under 127 pounds)
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Taking certain medicines (such as glucocorticoid medications, which treat arthritis, asthma, and lupus; anti-seizure medications; or aluminum-containing antacids)
  • Being a white or Asian woman
  • Having inactive lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol


Even if you are at risk for osteoporosis, there are steps you can take to prevent it. Here's what the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends.


  • Get enough calcium.

Most people should take about 1,000 to 1,500 mg a day. The amount varies by age. You can get calcium through foods like yogurt, cheese, milk, and broccoli or take daily supplements.

  • Don't drink alcohol excessively.

Large quantities of alcohol can make it more difficult for your body to use calcium effectively.

  • Get enough vitamin D.

If you're under 50, take between 400 and 800 units of vitamin D a day; take up to 1,000, if you're 50 or older. Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, milk, and eggs.

  • Exercise.

Being active throughout your entire life means you're more likely to reach maximum bone density. Recommended exercises include walking, dancing, jogging, and playing sports such as tennis and racquetball.

  • Stop smoking.

Smoking decreases the amount of estrogen in your body, and estrogen helps slow bone loss.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Bone density tests, most commonly dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scans (DEXA scans), are used for osteoporosis screening. All women over 65 should get regular screenings, as should those between 50 and 65 who have an increased risk.


If you've been told you have osteoporosis, you can slow or prevent further bone loss by following the same techniques recommended for preventing it. Medications, including estrogen and bisphosphonates (known by the names Fosamax, Actonel, and Boniva), have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat osteoporosis.

To reduce your risk of falling, follow these tips from the American College of Rheumatology.

  • Use non-skid mats or stickers in the shower or bathtub.
  • Secure loose cords and rugs.
  • Wear appropriate, comfortable shoes when walking outside, particularly in the winter or on uneven surfaces.
  • Use caution when lifting or carrying heavy items.