The main risk to bone health as we age is osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disorder that increases the risk of breaking a bone and developing painful skeletal deformities. Some 10 million Americans -- 80% of them women -- suffer from this condition, while 34 million Americans are at risk of osteopenia, or low bone mass, a precursor to osteoporosis.
While women are likelier to have the condition, men are also at risk. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that 2 million American men have the condition, with another 12 million at risk.
And while bones do become weaker as we age, aging alone is not the cause of osteoporosis. Contributing factors include small bone structure, low weight, low testosterone, and in women, menopause. Men on hormone therapy for prostate cancer are also at high risk. Other medications can also increase risks, including antacids containing aluminum, methotrexate (for cancer), heparin (a blood thinner), cholestyramine (for high cholesterol), and some seizure medications.
To reduce risks, men and women should increase calcium intake, stop smoking, keep alcohol consumption low, and exercise regularly, particularly with weight-bearing workouts such as walking.