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Top 10 Facts on Osteoporosis

Top 10 Facts on Osteoporosis

Last Updated on Nov 16, 2016

Let us know the important facts about osteoporosis, which is becoming a major public health threat globally.

  1. The term “osteoporosis” is derived from the Greek word osteon, which means “bone,” and poros, which means “passage” or “space

    Osteoporosis was recognized as a disease in the 1800s, and was first described by English surgeon Astley Cooper (1768-1841), who noted that it was seen to affect the elderly.

    In 1820, French physician Jean Lobstein (1777-1835) coined the term “osteoporosis” because bones of affected persons had larger than usual gaps or pores.

  2. Osteoporosis can occur in both the gender, but is much more common in post-menopausal women. In fact, due to the loss of estrogen after menopause, which normally prevents bone loss, elderly women are four times more at risk than men to develop this condition. It is estimated that 50 percent of women will get osteoporosis during their lifetime. These figures are expected to increase due to a rise in the aging population worldwide.

    In spite of the fact that many elderly persons suffer from osteoporosis, it can be prevented.

  1. Reports suggest that over 200 million worldwide suffer from osteoporosis, with the risk increasing by nearly 6 times in women aged 90 years in comparison to women who are 60 years.

    Osteoporosis is responsible for nearly 9 million fractures annually worldwide.

    By 2050, the global incidence of hip fracture in males is estimated to rise by 310% and in females by 240% , in comparison to 1990 figures.

  2. The reason for a higher incidence of osteoporosis with increasing age may be understood by the following fact.

    Bone mass double between birth and two years of age, again doubles by 10 years, and doubles yet again during the teens. It continues to rise till about 30 years of age, when the maximum or peak bone mass is achieved. After 30 years, more bone is lost than is replaced by bone remodeling, causing a 5-10% decrease in bone mass every decade.

  3. Risk factors for the development of osteoporosis include the following -

    Risk factors that are non-modifiable

    • Gender – commoner in women
    • Age – risk increases with age
    • Body size- Small, thin built women have a higher risk
    • Ethnicity - Caucasian and Asian women have the highest risk. Hispanic and Black women have a lower risk.
    • Family history- Osteoporosis tends to run in families. If a family member has osteoporosis or breaks a bone, there is a greater chance that you will too.

    Other risk factors are:

    • Sex hormones - Reduced estrogen levels due to menopause or absent menses can cause osteoporosis in women. Decreased testosterone levels can lead to osteoporosis in men.
    • Anorexia nervosa (eating disorder) - can cause osteoporosis.
    • Calcium and vitamin D intake - A diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D increase risk of osteoporosis
    • Medications - Some medicines such as steroids increase osteoporosis risk
    • Activity level – Sedentary life, lack of exercise or prolonged immobilization can cause bones to become weak.
    • Smoking - Cigarettes are bad for bone health
    • Alcohol - Too much alcohol may lead to bone loss and bone fractures
  4. The spine is the most commonly fractured bone in osteoporosis. It can cause back pain, loss of height, and curvature of shoulders and back.

    The most serious effects of osteoporosis result from a hip fracture. They most often occur in persons over age 70 years. Almost all persons who suffer hip fractures need surgery to repair the broken bone. Following surgery, it becomes necessary for such patients to depend on help from family, friends or health care professionals for their daily activities such as bathing dressing and shopping, leading to a loss of independence.

    Complications from surgery may also be serious. In fact, post-surgery some people need skilled nursing care long-term, and unfortunately, a few persons may even die.

    Fractures in the wrist, arm, pelvis, legs or ribs may cause significant pain and short-term disability. Surgical correction, casting or splinting may be necessary.

  1. Younger women and men are being increasingly diagnosed with osteoporosis due to hormone imbalances resulting from diabetes, surgical menopause, menstrual irregularities, long-term steroid therapy and poor nutrition.

    Studies have suggested that soft drinks, especially those that contain phosphoric acid, up the risk of osteoporosis. In fact, soda pop is referred to as ‘osteoporosis in a can’.

    Research has shown that adolescent boys who consume less than 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day and girls consuming less than 850 milligrams daily will fail to reach their optimal bone mass levels.

  2. Osteoporosis is referred to as a ‘silent disease’. It hardly produces any symptoms, and is first diagnosed only when a fracture occurs.

    It is diagnosed by tests to measure the bone mass or density. It may be done in patients who have suffered a fracture to confirm the presence of osteoporosis. The tests may also be done in persons to detect the presence of a decreased bone mass (osteopenia), which is a risk factor for the development of osteoporosis.

    The tests commonly done include the DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan, which estimates bone density at the spine, hip or total body.

    Other methods are available that assess bone density at peripheral locations, such as the heel, wrist and finger. These are usually cheap and quick, but are considered screening methods to assess the risk of osteoporosis. A DEXA scan should be done to confirm the diagnosis in persons with a moderate or high risk.

  3. Treatment of osteoporosis includes the following modalities.
    • Healthy lifestyle and balanced diet
    • Taking adequate calcium and vitamin D in diet and as supplements
    • Regular exercise plan suitable for person’s age and condition
    • Medications if necessary

    Medications currently approved for management of osteoporosis include biphosphonates, calcitonin, raloxifene, estrogen replacement therapy and teriparatide (parathyroid hormone).

  4. Osteoporosis may be prevented or at least the risk may be reduced by the following measures.
    • Eating a variety of healthy foods daily through the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
    • Taking necessary amount of calcium through diet or supplements
    • Getting the recommended amount of vitamin D.
    • Stop smoking and limiting alcohol.
    • Taking precautions to prevent falls - Most fractures occur due to a fall that could have been prevented. A few actions to prevent falls at home include -
      • Using nightlights and torches
      • Removing or securing scatter rugs,
      • Getting rid of clutter.
      • Keeping bathroom floors clean and dry
      • Hand supports and railings wherever needed
      • Getting a Bone Mineral Density test when indicated, after consulting a specialist


  1. Facts and Statistics - (https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics)
  2. What Is Osteoporosis? - (http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/osteoporosis/osteoporosis_ff.asp)
  3. The Facts About Osteoporosis - (https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2047/index.htm)
  4. Osteoporosis treatment: Medications can help - (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/in-depth/osteoporosis-treatment/art-20046869)

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