- Over 40 million people in the United States either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk for developing osteoporosis due to low bone mass.
- Worldwide, the International Osteoporosis Foundation says that one in three women and one in five men have osteoporosis, for a total of more than 200 million people.
- A University of Arkansas study found that 2% of college-aged women have osteoporosis and 15% more have such low levels of bone density that they are at high risk for developing the disease in the near future.
- An increasing number of young women and men are being diagnosed with osteoporosis due to hormone imbalances (diabetes, menstrual irregularities, surgical menopause, long-term steroid therapy) and poor nutrition.
- The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 24% of the approximately 300,000 people who fracture a hip each year die within one year. Many others suffer serious depression and withdraw from society because they are so afraid of breaking bones. Hip fractures are one of the most serious consequences of osteoporosis.
Soda pop has been nicknamed “osteoporosis in a can”
- Research suggests that soft drinks, particularly those that contain phosphoric acid, increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- The United States has one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world. Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and certain parts of South Africa have historically had very low rates of osteoporosis.
- A 2004 report on bone health issued by the United States Surgeon General revealed that 9 out of 10 teenaged girls in the U.S. fail to get enough calcium.
- Ancient skeletons and mummies reveal that osteoporosis has existed for thousands of years.
- Osteoporosis was formally recognized as a disease in the 1800s, when English surgeon Astley Cooper (1768-1841) described it and noted that it usually affects older people.
- In 1820, French physician Jean Lobstein (1777-1835) named the disease “osteoporosis” because patients’ bones had larger than normal holes or pores. The term “osteoporosis” is from the Greek osteon, meaning “bone,” and poros, meaning “passage” or “space.”
- Bone mass doubles between birth and age two, doubles again by age 10, and doubles yet again during puberty. It continues to increase until about age 30, when the maximum or peak bone mass is attained. After that, more bone tissue is lost than is replaced during bone remodeling, resulting in a 5-10% loss of bone mass per decade of life.
- Because osteoporosis has no warning signs, medical experts call it a silent disease. Often the first symptom of osteoporosis is a broken bone from little or no trauma.
- Spinal fractures are the most common type of bone breakage to result from osteoporosis. In the U.S alone, there are more than 550,00 such fractures each year.
As we may know, osteoporosis affects around 10 million Americans, most of whom are over 55, and it is the cause of an estimated 1.5 million fractures annually.
- Lois Capps
- Aside from spinal fractures, the most common osteoporosis bone breaks are in the wrist and hip. About 400,000 osteoporosis-related wrist fractures occur in the U.S. each year. The most common type of wrist fracture in people with osteoporosis is a Colles fracture, when the radius breaks and the wrist joint is displaced backwards.
- Breaking a bone due to osteoporosis is different than bone breaks in those who do not have the disease. Scientists note that osteoporotic bones often heal more slowly and less completely than normal bones, probably because they contain fewer bone minerals and other materials essential for healing.
- Bones are in a constant state of “remodeling”; in other words, old bone is broken down and replaced with new bone. Osteoporosis occurs due to loss of both a mineral and protein matrix, making bones extremely fragile.
- Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis because they typically have less bone mass to start with than men do. Women undergoing menopause also experience a sudden loss of estrogen, a sex hormone that helps build and maintain healthy bones.
- The Surgeon General’s office stated that by the year 2020, half of all Americans older than age 50 would be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis. Of women now age 50 or older, 40% will suffer a fracture of the hip, wrist, or spine at some point in their lives.b\
- Osteoporosis can be suggested by X-rays and confirmed by tests that measure bone density.
- Osteoporosis is treated by prescription medications, stopping the use of alcohol and cigarettes, adequate exercise, calcium, and vitamin D.
Osteoporotic hip fractures severely affect a person's physical and mental well-being
- More women than men fracture a hip from osteoporosis, but men with hip fractures are nearly twice as likely to die in the year after the breakage occurs. Researchers believe this is because men tend to sustain hip fractures at an older age than women do, and being older increases the risk of death. Men with hip fractures are also more likely to develop fatal infections.
- Osteoporosis fractures cost around $18 billion per year, or $38 million a day. In 2005, fractures related to osteoporosis were responsible for an estimated $19 billion. By 2025, experts predict it will rise to $25.3 billion.
- A woman’s risk of hip fractures is equal to her risk of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined.
- There are many situations that can increase a person’s risk for osteoporosis, including a chronic illness such as liver or kidney disease, chronic use of corticosteroids such as prednisone, difficulty absorbing nutrients due to stomach or intestinal problems, estrogen or testosterone deficiencies, excessive use of tobacco or alcohol, low body weight, anorexia nervosa, lack of exercise, some medications, long periods of immobilization, poor nutrition, low vitamin D, high caffeine intake, inflammation, and chronic stress.b
- Risk factors for developing osteoporosis include gender (women are more likely to develop the disease), age, body size (small, thin women are at greater risk), ethnicity (white and Asian women are at the highest risk, black and Hispanic women have the lowest risk), and family history.
- Studies show that adolescent boys who intake less than 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily and girls who intake less than 850 milligrams daily won’t achieve their optimal bone mass.
- According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 80% of those with osteoporosis are women.
- According to the American Medical Association, between 20% and 30% of women who have gone through menopause have osteoporosis and another 30% have low bone density.
- The most effective way to prevent osteoporosis is to eat a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, exercise, and do not smoke or drink in excess.
A healthy diet, not smoking, and exercising reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- At least 30 genes have been linked to the development of osteoporosis.
- Caucasian and Asian women on average have bone density 5% to 10% lower than women of African American, Mediterranean, or Latino descent, placing them at higher risk for osteoporosis.
- Women with light skin and fair hair are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis. Thin women with narrow hips also have a higher risk.
- Studies show that people whose hair turns gray in their 20s and are more than 50% gray by the age of 40 have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Studies show that if an adult person weighs less than 127 pounds at any height, he or she is more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Young women who diet and exercise excessively may also develop amenorrhea and an estrogen deficiency. In extreme cases, young women can develop osteoporosis and fractures.
- A body mass index of 20 or less is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. Women who are overweight have a lower risk of osteoporosis because fat cells produce estrogen. However, being overweight is associated with many other risk factors.
- The age when a female had her first period and the age when she had her last period are both contributors to her risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen rises during the menstrual cycle, and estrogen helps protect bones. Those who started their periods earlier and stopped later received more bone-building estrogen over the years.
- The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that osteoporosis is responsible for more than 2 million fractures each year.
- By age 80, smokers have bone density 6% to 10% lower than nonsmokers.
Fractures caused by osteoporosis most often occur in the spine
- Spinal fractures due to osteoporosis often result from minimal trauma such as coughing, sneezing, or slightly bending the body. A person may be unaware that a spinal fracture has occurred until multiple broken vertebra lead to pain, a permanent loss of height, or a hump on the back known as kyphosis or dowager’s hump. Kyphosis can lead to neck and back pain, reduced lung function (due to the lungs being unable to fill with air), a protruding abdomen, and poor balance.
- One study shows that postmenopausal women who drank 16 drinks a week had a 5% to 10% higher bone mass density (BMD) than postmenopausal women who drank less than two drinks per week. The increase in bone density may be because alcohol can help convert testosterone to estrogen after menopause. Alcohol may also increase calcitonin, a hormone that inhibits bone reabsorption, in menopausal women.
- Excessive drinking, especially during adolescence and young adulthood, can decrease bone growth and increase the risk of osteoporosis for both men and women.
- Studies show that bariatric surgery can raise the risk of osteoporosis.
- Astronauts are at risk for developing osteoporosis because of their prolonged weightlessness. Gravity is essential for strong bones.
- Anorexics typically have a high level of the glucocorticoid called cortisol, which contributes to bone loss and increases the likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
- Teens with anorexia have been found to have spinal density 25% less than that of healthy teens.
- The bone mass a person builds by their mid 20s and 30s is the best they’ll ever have. A person cannot build any more. The amount of bone gained during adolescence should equal the amount lost during the rest of your adult life.
- Calcium is only one of the minerals responsible for maintaining bones, but as many as 35% of Americans are deficient.
- Children between the ages of 9 and 18 need the most calcium (1,300 mg) per day. For postmenopausal women, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 1,200 mg per day. Most physicians recommend 1,500 mg of calcium daily for someone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
- Osteoporotic bones are not painful. The only time a person will have pain with osteoporosis is after a fracture.
- The combination of collagen and minerals makes bone one of the strongest and most flexible natural materials on earth. One cubic inch of bone can withstand loads of up to 20,000 pounds, over four times the strength of concrete.
A comparison of healthy bone versus brittle bone
- Osteoporosis is more common in developed countries than in developing ones, among city dwellers than country dwellers and, surprisingly, in countries where the diet contains a significant proportion of milk, cheese, and other dairy products than in countries where the consumption of dairy products is small or nonexistent.
- Osteoporosis is the most common and potentially the most debilitating bone disease known to man and woman.
- One half of women over 50 will fracture a bone because of osteoporosis.
- Bone loss in women is most severe in the first 5 to 6 years after menopause. On average, women go through natural menopause at 51 years and 4 months of age. Surgical menopause is the result of having a hysterectomy with a bilateral oophorectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus and both ovaries). About 590,000 hysterectomies are performed in civilian hospitals in the U.S. each year.
- Osteoporosis is the 4th leading cause of death of women, following heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Death from osteoporosis is usually a result of complications that may follow bone fractures.
- Creaking joints are not a symptom of bone loss. Osteoporosis is not a joint disease.
- Consuming excess protein and salt increases a person’s risk for developing osteoporosis by increasing calcium lost through the urine.
- Women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men because 1) women often have less bone mass to begin with than men do and 2) men do not experience the usually complete loss of hormones that women do when they undergo menopause.
Women suffering from eating disorders, particularly Anorexia Nervosa, are at high risk for osteoporosis
- Women with a history of anorexia nervosa or bulimia are at a high risk for developing osteoporosis and may be two to three times as prone to bone fractures. Their risk may last throughout their lifetime, especially if peak bone mass was affected.
- Scientists believe that there is a correlation between the high sugar level in the blood of diabetics and osteoporosis. Long-term uncontrolled diabetes may lead to a significantly higher rate of osteoporosis in both female and male diabetics.
- Drinking four cups of coffee a day reduces calcium intake so much that it doubles the probability of a hip fracture.
- Celebrities who have osteoporosis include Sally Fields, Joan Rivers, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Meredith Viera.
Recommended Calcium and Vitamin D Intakes
|Age||Calcium mg/day||Vitamin D (IU/day)|
|Infants 0-6 months|
6 to 12 months
|1 to 3 years old|
4 to 8 years old
|9 to 13 years old|
14 to 18 years old
|19 to 30 years old|
31 to 50 years old
|51 to 70 year old males||1,000||600|
|51 to 70 year old females||1,200||800|
|> 70 years old||1,200||800|
|14 to 18 years old, pregnant/lactating||1,300||600|
|19 to 50 years old, pregnant/lactating||1,000||600|
*mg = milligrams; IU= International Units
|Food||Serving Size||Calories||Amount of Calcium|
|Plain yogurt, fat free||1 cup||127||452 mg|
|Orange juice with added calcium||1 cup||120||350 mg|
|Fruit yogurt, low-fat||1 cup||232||345 mg|
|Ricotta cheese, part skim||1/2 cup||170||334 mg|
|American cheese, low fat or fat free||2 ounces (~ 3 slices)||188||312 mg|
|Milk (skim)||1 cup||86||306 mg|
Vitamin D-Rich Food
|Food||Vitamin D content (IU)|
|Cod liver oil||2217|
|Atlantic herring, raw||2061|
|SILK Light Plain Soymilk||338|
|Orange juice, fortified||259|
1Abramovitz, Melissa. Osteoporosis (Diseases & Disorders). New York, NY: Lucent Books, 2011.
2Lanou, Amy Joy and Michael Castleman. Building Bone Vitality: A Revolutionary Diet Plan to Prevent Bone Loss and Reverse Osteoporosis. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2009.
3Pizzorno, Lara. Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis and Have Strong Bones for Life Naturally? Mount Jackson, VA: Praktikos Books, 2011.
4“What is Osteoporosis?” (Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public) January 2011 (updated). National Institute of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease National Resources Center. November 2014. Accessed: January 21, 2016.
5Williams, Xandria. Fighting Osteoporosis. Heron Quays, London: Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2002.