Osteoporosis: It’s more common than you think

Fifty-two million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis; and half of all women and up to one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis (source: National Osteoporosis Foundation).

Those are big numbers when you have parents, aunts, uncles and cousins all over the age of 50. Based on these numbers, that would mean between my mom, my three aunts and six female cousins over age 50, five of them will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Additionally, two of the men in my life over age 50 (dad, uncles, cousins) will break a bone due to osteoporosis. That’s seven people in my life alone that could be affected by this medical condition. 

I had never considered the risks of osteoporosis in my family, I’m not sure why, but maybe because it was just not something that was discussed when reviewing family medical history alongside heart disease, diabetes or surgeries. But as my parents and other family members age, I have started to investigate other medical conditions that could affect them and what I can do to (1) help them prevent certain medical conditions or (2) help them reduce their risk, including osteoporosis.

To raise awareness about osteoporosis and the steps to prevent it, the National Osteoporosis Foundation celebrates National Osteoporosis Month each May, during which time it encourages the public to take action to build, maintain and protect their bones at every life stage. There are many things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Some of those include:

  • Ensure you are getting the right amount of calcium and vitamin D. Not having enough calcium or vitamin D can contribute to weak, fragile bones.
  • Engage in physical activity that strengthens bones, aiding in bone formation. Activities that build bone include weight-bearing exercises and aerobic exercise like walking and biking.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking inhibits bone formation.
  • Reduce alcohol intake. Drinking large amounts of alcohol contributes to the development of osteoporosis.
  • Develop healthy eating habits. Eating disorders and poor nutritional habits contribute to the development of weak, unhealthy bones.

Want to learn more about osteoporosis, preventing osteoporosis and general bone health? These videos from Janet Dishion, Ph.D., registered dietitian and certified nutritionist with Norton Healthcare, and Tristan Blackburn M.D., rheumatologist, will answer many of your questions. If you still have questions about osteoporosis or would like a bone density test, contact your primary care provider or use our Find a Doctor system to find a physician.