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What is osteoporosis?

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.

Risk factors you can't change include:

Risk factors you can change include:

  • Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
  • Smoking.
  • Not getting enough weight-bearing exercise.
  • 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 density tests done if they are at risk.1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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