Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bones. It means you have bones that are thin and brittle, with lots of holes inside them like a sponge. This makes them easy to break. Osteoporosis can lead to broken bones (fractures) in the hip, spine, and wrist.
What causes osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is caused by a lack of bone strength or bone density. As you age, your bones get thinner naturally. But some things can make you more likely to have the severe bone thinning of osteoporosis. These things are called risk factors. Some risk factors you can change. Others you can't change.
How much vitamin D do I need?
In November 2010, the Institute of Medicine's expert committee set a new "dietary reference intake" for vitamin D.
Assuming that a person gets virtually no vitamin D from sunshine -- and that this person gets adequate amounts of calcium -- the IOM committee recommends getting the following amounts of vitamin D from diet or supplements (Note that the IOM's upper limit is not a recommended intake, but what the IOM considers the highest safe level):
Drinking too much alcohol. Heavy alcohol use (more than 2 drinks a day) can decrease bone formation. It also makes you more likely to fall.
Taking medicines that can affect bone growth and repair. Your doctor can tell you if you are taking any of these medicines. He or she can also help you understand if the benefit of the medicine is greater than the risk.
Experts suggest that older men talk to their doctors about osteoporosis and have bone mineral density tests done if they are at risk.1
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based on your medical history and a physical exam. Bone density testing measures the mineral density (such as calcium) in your bones using a special X-ray or CT scan. From this information, your doctor can estimate the strength of your bones. Your doctor may also do blood and urine tests to rule out other problems that may cause bone loss. Blood tests can also tell if low levels of testosterone or estrogen in your body are causing bone loss.
National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that all men age 70 and older routinely have a
bone mineral density test to screen for osteoporosis. The NOF also recommends that you and your doctor check your fracture risk using a tool such as FRAX (Fracture Risk Assessment). This tool can help you decide if you should be screened for osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and when to start bone mineral density screening.