Osteoporosis is a disease marked by decreasing bone mass and density, making bones weak and brittle. If left unchecked, it can lead to fracture . Any bone can be affected. Fractures of special concern are of the hip , spine , and wrist .

osteoporosis bone
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance between bone loss and bone formation (known as bone remodeling). After age 30, bone loss occurs more quickly. Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence bone remodeling.

Risk Factors

Osteoporosis is more common in older adults. It is more common in women than in men. People of Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic ethnicity are more likely to get osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is more likely to occur if full bone mass was not achieved during your bone-building years. Other factors that may increase your chance of osteoporosis include:

  • Low weight
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • History of falls
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Postmenopausal status
  • Certain health conditions, such as:
  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, or long-term use of heparin or proton-pump inhibitors
  • Low hormone levels (low estrogen levels in women, low testosterone levels in men)
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Certain restrictive diets that may result in a deficit of calcium or vitamin D
  • Too little sunlight—the effect of sun on the skin is a primary source of vitamin D
  • Certain cancers, including lymphoma and multiple myeloma


In most cases, people with osteoporosis remain symptom-free until there is a fracture. In those who do have symptoms, osteoporosis may cause:

  • Severe back pain
  • Loss of height with stooped posture— kyphosis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full soon after eating
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Osteoporosis can be seen with bone mineral density (BMD) tests of the hip, spine, wrist, or other site. These may include:


The treatment and management of osteoporosis involves lifestyle changes and medications. Although osteoporosis is highly preventable, it cannot be cured. Treatment focuses on reducing the incidence of fractures and slowing bone loss.

Lifestyle Changes


Decrease your intake of alcohol. Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is in:

  • Dairy products
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Canned fish with bones
  • Calcium-fortified products


Do not smoke. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways you can successfully quit .


Exercise improves bone health. It also increases muscle strength, coordination, and balance. Do weight-bearing and strength-training exercises for maximum benefit. Balance training may help prevent falls and fractures.

Dietary Supplements

People who cannot eat enough calcium from food might want to take calcium supplements. Vitamin D and other supplements may also be advised. Talk with your doctor before taking herbs or supplements.

Safety Measures

Falls can increase the chance of fracture in someone with osteoporosis. Here are ways to prevent falls:

  • Floors—Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its usual place.
  • Bathrooms—Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower.
  • Lighting—Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well lit. Install a night light in your bathroom. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night.
  • Kitchen—Install non-skid rubber mats near sink and stove. Clean spills right away.
  • Stairs—Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure.
  • Other precautions—Wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes. Keep your intake of alcoholic beverages to a minimum. Ask your doctor whether any of your medications might cause you to fall.


Certain medications can help prevent bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce your risk of fractures. These may include:

  • Bisphosphonates
  • Medications with estrogenic effects
  • Other medications, such as parathyroid hormone or bone resorption inhibitors


Building strong bones throughout your early years is the best defense against osteoporosis. Getting enough calcium, vitamin D , and regular exercise can keep bones strong throughout life.

To help reduce your chance of osteoporosis:

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Perform weight-bearing exercises.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle—avoid smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation (2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women).
  • If you are a postmenopausal woman at high risk for bone fractures, medications may be appropriate to prevent osteoporosis.


Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Allegiance Health or performed by Allegiance Health physicians.

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

If you experience signs of a heart attack, chew an aspirin and call 9-1-1. Heart attacks are caused by blood clots in the heart arteries and aspirin helps reduce these clots.