In a normal, healthy adult,
bone is constantly absorbed into the body and then
rebuilt. During childhood and the teen years, new bone tissue is added faster
than existing bone is absorbed. As a result, your bones become larger and
heavier until about age 30 when you reach peak
bone mass (density). The more bone mass you developed
early in life, the less likely you are to get
After age 30, people lose a small amount of bone each year.
A person with thinning bones may be diagnosed with lower-than-normal bone
mass (osteopenia). Osteopenia sometimes
progresses to osteoporosis.
When bones thin, they lose strength
and break more easily. The bones that break most often due to osteoporosis are:
- The spine . About half of broken bones caused by
osteoporosis are bones in the spine.1 Vertebrae that are weak because of
osteoporosis may break and collapse on top of each other. (This is called a compression
fracture.) These fractures of the
spine can cause back pain, stooped posture, loss
of height, and a curved upper back (dowager's hump).
- The hip. Hip fractures are often caused by a fall. They can make it very hard for
you to move around. And they usually require major surgery. After a hip
fracture, you may have medical complications such as blood clots,
pressure sores, or pneumonia. To learn more, see the topic Hip Fracture.
- The wrist and forearm. Wrist fractures can make you less active and independent.2
In women, bone loss increases when the ovaries reduce
estrogen, a hormone that protects against bone loss.
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
November 6, 2012
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