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The Health Centre

Osteoporosis - the Bone Thief


Helen grew up on a farm in the country. She drank lots of milk as a child. She also walked a lot. After graduating from high school, she got married and found a job. Family and work kept her too busy to exercise. Helen went through menopause at age 47. At age 76, she was enjoying retirement — travelling and working in her garden. But then she slipped on a small rug in her kitchen and broke her hip. After Helen recovered, she needed a cane to walk, and gardening was a lot harder to enjoy.

Helen had osteoporosis, but she didn’t know it before she fell. Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily—most often bones in the hip, backbone (spine), and wrist. Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease”—you may not notice any changes until a bone breaks. But your bones have been losing strength for many years.

Bone is living tissue. To keep bones strong, your body is always breaking down old bone and replacing it with new bone tissue. As people enter their forties and fifties, more bone is broken down than is replaced. A close look at the inside of bone shows something like a honeycomb. When you have osteoporosis, the spaces in this honeycomb grow larger. And the bone that forms the honeycomb gets smaller. The outer shell of your bones also gets thinner. All this loss makes your bones weaker.

Who Has Osteoporosis?

Millions across developed countries have osteoporosis. They are mostly women, but more men also have this disease. White and Asian women are most likely to have osteoporosis. Other women at great risk include those who:

  • have a family history of the disease,

  • have broken a bone while an adult,

  • had surgery to remove their ovaries before their periods stopped,

  • had early menopause,

  • have not gotten enough calcium throughout their lives,

  • had extended bed rest,

  • used certain medicines for a long time, or

  • have a small body frame.

The risk of osteoporosis grows as you get older. At the time of menopause women may lose bone quickly for several years. After that, the loss slows down, but continues. In men the loss of bone mass is slower. But, by age 65 or 70 men and women are losing bone at the same rate.

Source: National Institute on Aging


Part 1: Osteoporosis - The Bone Thief

Part 2: Osteoporosis - How Can I Keep My Bones Strong?

Part 3: What Can I Do About My Osteoporosis?

Part 4: How Can I Keep From Falling?

Part 5: Men and Osteoporosis






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