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Learn About Osteoporosis

Photo of older woman lifting hand weights

The Basics

What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis (oss-tee-oh-puh-ro-sis) is a disease of the bones. It means your bones are weak and more likely to break.

People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. A broken bone (often called a fracture) in an older person can cause pain, disability, and make it hard to do daily activities without help.

How do I Know if I Have Osteoporosis?
There are no signs or symptoms of osteoporosis. You might not know you have the disease until you break a bone. If you are age 65 or older, you should get a test to find out your bone strength (called a bone density test). Bone density tests are painless and easy.

It doesn’t matter how old you are; it is not too late to improve your bone health.

My Risk

Anyone can get osteoporosis, but it’s most common in older women. The older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis. One out of every two (1 in 2) women and one in four (1 in 4) men over the age of 50 will break a bone in their lifetime because of osteoporosis.

To learn more about your risk for osteoporosis, Check up on Your Bones with this interactive tool.

You may be at a higher risk for osteoporosis if you:

  • Have a small, thin body size
  • Have an eating disorder like anorexia
  • Have a family history of the disease
  • Are White or Asian
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • Smoke or drink too much alcohol
  • Eat a diet low in calcium and vitamin D (these are usually found in milk products)
  • Have low estrogen levels (in women) due to menopause or low testosterone levels (in men)

Some medicines can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Be sure to talk to your doctor about preventing weak bones.

Take Action

There are many things you can do to prevent bone loss. Find out how by clicking on the links below:

Eat Healthy
Get enough calcium and vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to take a vitamin or supplement.

Get a Bone Density Test
If you are age 65 or older, you should get a test to find out your bone strength. This is called a bone density test. If you are age 60-64, talk to your doctor about testing your bone strength.

Get Active
Exercise can help slow down bone loss.

Quit Smoking
Smoking is bad for your bones as well as your heart and lungs.

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
Alcohol can make it harder for your body to use the calcium you take in.

Lower Your Risk of Falling
Falls can break bones.

What can I do?

Here are some questions to ask your doctor about preventing osteoporosis:

  • What should I eat and how active should I be to prevent osteoporosis?
  • Am I currently taking any medicines that cause bone loss?
  • How much calcium and vitamin D is right for me?
  • How do I know if I have osteoporosis?

If you are Caring for Someone With Osteoporosis

Adopt Healthy Habits
Now you have another reason to stay healthy. Learn how to prepare foods high in calcium. Take walks with your loved one. Try these simple exercises for seniors together.
Prevent Falls
About half of all falls happen at home. Learn how to make your home safer [PDF – 6.7 MB].
Ask Questions and Take Notes When you are at the Doctor
This will help you remember important information.

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National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133