What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time and is the most common type of bone disease. Osteoporosis affects women and men of all races, white and Asian women are at highest risk. Women who post menopausal experience a drop in estrogen which is a leading cause of osteoporosis. It is estimated that 1 out of 5 women in the United States over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. Of those women, about half will have a fracture of the hip, wrist or spine. For men, the risk is higher at age 70 and older due to the decrease in testosterone production.

Bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone resulting in increased bone mass. Peak bone mass is usually reached by your early 20s. As we age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.

Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to create enough new bone, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both. This causes bones to become weak and brittle, sometimes so brittle that even bending or coughing can cause a fracture.

The likelihood of developing osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. The higher your peak bone mass the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.

The Role of Calcium and Phosphate

Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation. Throughout youth, your body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from the diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.

As you age, calcium and phosphate may be reabsorbed back into the body from the bones, which makes the bone tissue weaker. This can result in brittle, fragile bones that are more prone to fractures, even without injury.

Usually, the loss occurs gradually over years. Many times, a person will have a fracture before becoming aware that the disease is present. By the time a fracture occurs, the disease is in its advanced stages and damage is severe.
Risk Factors – Take a Risk Assessment Here

A number of factors can increase the likelihood that you’ll develop osteoporosis — including age, race, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions and treatments.

Risk factors you cannot change:
Your sex.
Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.

Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.

Race. White women or those of Asian descent are at the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis.

Family history. If you have a parent or sibling with osteoporosis you are at greater risk, especially if there is also have a family history of fractures.

Frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.

Hormone levels
Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies. Examples include:

  • Sex hormones. The reduction of estrogen levels at menopause is one of the strongest risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Estrogen levels may also drop during certain types of cancer treatment. As they age, men experience a gradual reduction in testosterone levels which tend to weaken the bones. Some treatments for prostate cancer reduce testosterone levels in men as well.
  • Thyroid problems. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur if your thyroid is overactive or if you have an underactive thyroid and take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat it.
  • Other glands. Osteoporosis has also been associated with overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands. 

Dietary factors
You are at an increased risk for osteoporosis if you have:

  • Low calcium intake. A lifelong lack of calcium plays a major role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to lower bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
  • Eating disorders. People who have anorexia are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Because of low food intake the amount of calcium ingested is reduced. In women, anorexia can stop menstruation, which also weakens bone.
  • Weight-loss surgery. A reduction in the size of your stomach or a bypass of part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium.
  • Steroids and other medications
    Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption. If you regularly consume more than two alcoholic drinks a day your risk of osteoporosis increases, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
  • Tobacco use. The role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clearly understood, but researchers do know that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Tobacco use contributes to many other diseases including cancer and heart disease.


There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Symptoms occur late in the disease process and include bone pain or tenderness, loss of height over time, low back pain or neck pain due to fractures of the spine or fractures with little or no trauma and stooped posture.

Tests for Osteoporosis

Bone mineral density testing (specifically a densitometry or DEXA scan) measures how much bone you have. Your health care provider uses this test to predict your risk for bone fractures in the future. You should have a baseline bone density test at the age of 50 if you have no symptoms of osteoporosis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above discuss those with your physician.

The Bethany Simpson Breast Center at Jupiter Medical Center offers the latest technology is the assessment of osteoporosis utilizing the Hologic Discovery Bone Densitometry System or DEXA.  This is a safe, non-invasive test that provides valuable information regarding your bone health to you and your healthcare provider.

Osteoporosis is a growing healthcare crisis that affects millions of men and women. The effects of this disease can significantly impact your quality of life. Fortunately, osteoporosis is detectable and treatable. Talk to your healthcare provider about having this test done.

For more information about Bone Density Testing or to schedule an appointment, call (561) 132-8550.