Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Viewed under a microscope, a healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in a healthy bone because osteoporotic bones are less dense. As a result bones become week and can break quite easily.
Osteoporosis is extremely common. In fact, according to Osteoporosis Canada, one in three women and one in five men will sustain an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime, and 80 per cent of all fractures in people 50 years of age or older are caused by osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis does not develop overnight. You can lose bone mass steadily for many years without experiencing any symptoms or signs of the disease until a bone fractures. This is why it is often referred to as the ‘silent disease’ because it progresses without symptoms or pain until a fracture occurs.
Early detection of bone loss, therefore, is critical in preventing osteoporotic fractures. To help you assess your risk of osteoporosis so that you make take preventative action, complete Osteoporosis Canada’s Checklist for Risk of Broken Bones and Osteoporosis.
The first sign of osteoporosis can be breaking a bone more easily than you would expect. But it is possible to determine if you have osteoporosis, even before a bone is broken, by getting a bone density test. It is as close as your doctor can come to predicting your future bone health.
The test uses extremely low dose X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are in a square centimeter of bone. Generally, the higher the mineral content, the denser the bone is, and the denser the bones are, the less likely they are to fracture.
Rest assured that it’s never too late to do something about bone health. Treatment can slow or even reverse its progression. Healthy behaviours, such as getting enough calcium and vitamin D and being physically active, are key components of any plan to prevent or treat osteoporosis. But these measures alone might not completely offset bone loss due to aging, which is where medications to improve bone health come into play. Click here to learn more about when medications can help and the options you and your health care professional can choose from.
“Conventional treatment for osteoporosis – Mayo Clinic”. Mayo Clinic. N.p., 2017. Web 17 May. 2017.
“How strong are your bones? – Osteoporosis Canada”. Osteoporosis Canada. N.p., 2017. Web 17 May 2017.
“Osteoporosis Facts & Statistics – Osteoporosis Canada”. Osteoporosis Canada. N.p., 2017. Web 17 May 2017.
“What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It? – National Osteoporosis Foundation”. National Osteoporosis Foundation. N.p., 2017. Web 17 May 2017.