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Looking at Bone Degeneration and Loss

Both men and women start having age-related bone loss at about age 50, but bone loss can be accelerated in individuals who didn't develop maximum peak bone mass. There are two levels of bone loss that can occur and are associated with an increased risk for fractures:

  • Osteopenia: Osteopenia, which is loss of bone mineral density (BMD), is the warning siren that the bones are thinning. This phase begins when existing bone breaks down faster than the body can replace it. Preventing transition into osteoporosis takes the combination of exercise, calcium, and possibly some medications prescribed by your doctor.
  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis — Latin for porous bone — takes years to develop as bones slowly lose minerals, density, and structure, which makes them weaker. If left untreated, osteoporosis can lead to stooped posture, loss of height, and broken bones.
    The good news is that not everyone ends up with osteoporosis and there are tests to determine how dense your bones are. The news may not be that bad if you've made lifestyle choices that help and not hinder bone strength. Making good choices still can't guarantee that you won't develop osteoporosis, but it significantly helps your odds. After you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you still have options to maintain bone density, but prevention is your best bet for preserving bone.

All bones aren't created equal. Women's bones are smaller and less dense than men's, and women are four times more likely than men to suffer from osteoporosis. This is because men in their 50s don't experience the rapid loss of bone mass that women do in the years following menopause. By age 65 or 70, however, men and women are losing bone mass at the same rate, and the absorption of calcium decreases in both sexes. Excessive bone loss causes bone to become fragile and more likely to fracture.

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