One of the unfortunate "side effects" of growing older in many people, both women and men, is an osteoporosis fracture. Meaning "porous bone," osteoporosis results when the body doesn't make enough bone or when it loses too much bone. Under a microscope, the bone will resemble that of a bee's honeycomb, with little openings. This makes one more prone to breaking bones, particularly the hips, wrists, and spine.

Osteoporosis can be caused by more than just aging. Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; celiac disease; breast and prostate cancer as well as lymphoma and leukemia; neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease; eating disorders; COPD and emphysema; premature menopause, low testosterone, and diabetes, and a host of other medical conditions can hasten bone loss or impair the body's ability to build bone. Many medications can also contribute to bone loss. Worldwide, over 33 percent of women and 20 percent of men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture.

Who Is At The Greatest Risk Of Developing Osteoporosis?

Medical conditions aside, Caucasian and Asian women, men and women over the age of 65, small-boned women with a slim frame, and people who have a family history of osteoporosis are most at risk of developing osteoporosis. Normal menopause is also a risk factor. Men with low testosterone, which also occurs as they age, is a risk for men. Lifestyle factors include heavy alcohol use, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle with little exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise.

How Is Osteoporosis Treated?

If your doctor suspects osteoporosis, he will order a bone density test. This is a type of x-ray called a DEXA scan. This scan checks your lower spine and hips and assesses whether you have normal bone density, low bone mass, or osteoporosis.

There are many new pharmaceutical treatments that can help if it is discovered you have low bone mass or osteoporosis. These drugs work by encouraging bone formation and mineral deposition and inhibiting the bone destroying cells.

Vitamin D and calcium supplementation is also recommended, as it ensure your dietary choices reflect foods that natural contain these nutrients. Vitamin D is mandatory for the maximum calcium uptake from the digestive tract.

Smoking and alcohol abuse programs may be recommended. These habits can be hard to kick, especially since they frequently go hand and hand with one another. Lastly, your physician will recommend an exercise program that you can safely do. This may require a few appointments with a physical therapist if you have been extremely sedentary.