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Osteoporosis: Are You One Of The 10 Million?

Caroline DeFilippo, MD, MPH
Caroline DeFilippo, MD, MPH Photo Credit: CareMount Medical

Osteoporosis is a common disease in older individuals, characterized by too little bone formation, excessive bone loss or a combination of both, leading to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures of the hip, spine and wrist. Most people do not realize they have it until they either have a fracture or they get a bone mineral density test.

Prevalence and Risk

Osteoporosis develops when a large amount of our spongy bone tissue breaks down, leaving bigger spaces. The bone then becomes more porous and brittle. The disease impacts nearly 10 million Americans with four times as many at risk for this illness according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women — especially women who are post-menopausal — are at the highest risk. So talk to your doctor about symptoms and getting evaluated.

Bisphosphonates: An Effective Treatment

The good news is that there are many treatments, such as bisphosphonates, that are effective for osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates slow the rate at which the body breaks down bone and can decrease your risk of fracture by up to 70 percent. The rare side effects associated with these medications include osteonecrosis of the jaw (a bone disease that causes pain, swelling or infection in the jaw) and atypical fractures. However, for every 100,000 women taking a bisphosphonate, fewer than three will have osteonecrosis of the jaw, and one will have an atypical femur fracture. The good news is that 2,000 will have avoided an osteoporotic fracture. If bisphosphonates are not the best medication for you, there are other options. It is essential to discuss this with your doctor.


You can protect your bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis by eating a diet rich in calcium, getting regular exercise, avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking. Making sure your body has enough vitamin D is also important. Dietary supplements can be used as an additional source of calcium and vitamin D if you are not getting enough in your diet. Additionally, it is important to exercise. Combine strength training with weight-bearing and balance exercises. Be strong and be healthy!