Osteoporosis is a progressive metabolic bone disease that causes a decrease in bone density and gives rise to weak, fragile bones that are prone to fracture. Most commonly, these fractures occur in the spine, wrist and hips when a person falls or bumps into something. If such an event triggers a visit to the doctor, a test of the bone mineral density called a DEXA scan may be performed and reveal osteoporosis.
The term osteoporosis refers to the porous (spongy) state of bone that eventually manifests as the bone’s ability to replenish itself declines over time. When individuals reach the age of around 40, the rate of bone breakdown starts to exceed the rate at which it is replaced, creating increasingly larger holes in the bone that make it less dense and more prone to fracture.
Some of the risk factors for osteoporosis such as gender, age and family history for the condition cannot be changed. However, factors such as diet and activity level can be improved to increase bone strength and individuals are advised to exercise regularly, eat a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, and quit any smoking or drinking habits.
Osteoporosis is currently thought to be affecting more than 200 million people worldwide but is most common among older, post-menopausal women who have reduced levels of estrogen, an important contributor to bone health.