Why Osteoporosis Can Be Dangerous for Older Adults

Until recently, osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, was considered an inevitable part of the aging process. Thankfully, there are now some innovative therapies, some of which may further increase bone mass, thereby cutting down the fracture risk in older adults.

Current medications for osteoporosis either slow the loss of bone breakdown or increase the rate of new bone formation. But these treatments can have serious side effects, so it's worth putting effort into prevention of the

Who's at risk?

More than 53 million Americans over age 50 in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or have low bone mass. It’s often called the “silent disease” because some people don’t know they have it until they break a bone. Even those who haven’t suffered a fracture may live in constant fear of breaking a bone because the consequences can be life altering—typically, half the patients who fracture their hip do not fully recover their independence.

Osteoporosis hits women harder than men. For women, the risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to their risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer combined. Women are in greater danger because they generally have a smaller bone mass than men—women with small frames are particularly at risk, as are older women given that bone loss occurs rapidly during menopause.

Older men too have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis than younger ones. In addition to age and sex, race plays a role, with Caucasians, Asians and Latinos more at risk than other racial groups. As well, those with a family history of osteoporosis stand a greater likelihood of developing this disease, and those who have been taking steroid medication for a long time are at risk of developing rapid and severe bone loss.

Lifestyle can also make a difference. For instance, those who do not consume enough calcium through food or supplements increase their chance of developing osteoporosis. Inactivity can also increase the likelihood of developing this condition, as bones build up in response to weight bearing and strength training exercises. 

Other lifestyle factors that put people at risk include smoking, and drinking more than one alcoholic drink per day for women or two for men.

How to help prevent osteoporosis

Although I've painted a grim picture, please don’t waste time worrying about this disease—take action instead. For starters, learn how you can prevent falls. If you're a woman over 65 or a man over 70, ask your doctor for a bone density test.

I also suggest that you look at improving your diet and upping your physical activity. Some factors, like your sex, age or race—are not within your control. But your lifestyle choices certainly are. 

How Brookdale helps residents manage bone and joint disease

Watch this video to learn more about how Brookdale partners with residents and their healthcare providers to help manage osteoporosis and other bone and joint conditions. 

The above content is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or fitness program or acting on any content on this website, especially if you have a medical condition. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.

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