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Osteoporosis is often seen as a problem for the elderly, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation notes that being over 50 is a major risk factor for osteoporosis. But that doesnÕt mean people younger than 50 canÕt develop the disease. The misconception that osteoporosis exclusively afflicts aging men and women only highlights the need to learn more about the disease.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Because people cannot feel their bones weakening, osteoporosis is often called a Òsilent disease,Ó notes the NOF. Despite its silence, osteoporosis is a serious threat, increasing a personÕs risk for bone breaks from falls.

What happens to bones when a person has osteoporosis?

The NOF notes that, under a microscope, healthy bones look like a honeycomb. When a person has osteoporosis, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are considerably larger than in healthy bones. Osteoporotic bones are not as dense as healthy bones, and as they become less dense, they weaken and are more susceptible to breaks.

Is osteoporosis common?

Osteoporosis is common across the globe. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, one in three women over age 50 and one in five men over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures.

What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?

The NOF categorizes risk factors for osteoporosis as uncontrollable and controllable. Uncontrollable risk factors include age, family history, low body weight (being small and thin), and a history of broken bones. Gender also is an uncontrollable risk factor, as women are more likely than men to suffer from osteoporosis. In fact, the NOF notes that a womanÕs risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

Controllable risk factors for osteoporosis include not eating enough fruits and vegetables; consuming too much protein, sodium and caffeine; a sedentary lifestyle; smoking; and excessive consumption of alcohol. Insufficient calcium and vitamin D intake is another controllable risk factor for osteoporosis. Speak with a physician about osteoporosis and the role that diet and exercise can play in prevention.

Osteoporosis affects people across the globe. Taking steps to reduce your risk for osteoporosis can prevent broken bones and other negative side effects of this disease. TF195958

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