Osteoporosis Information

The following articles present a detailed understanding of osteoporosis and fractures, why they occur, and how they can be prevented.

An Overview of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone-related disease. It causes your bones to become porous and less dense over time, lowering your overall bone quality. These changes make your bones more prone to fractures and breaks.

Osteoporosis is often referred to as “the silent thief.” This is because there are no symptoms of bone loss, and many patients discover they have osteoporosis after breaking a bone. In other words, someone could be losing bone for years without even realising it! Your bones can become so weak that a minor fall, bump, or strain can fracture your hip or back. The hip, spine, and wrist are the most common fracture sites in osteoporosis patients.

How does osteoporosis develop?

The skeleton is a living organ. Throughout your life, new bone is being formed while old bone is being broken down and removed.

During your childhood and adolescence, new bone is formed faster than old bone is removed. As a result, bones expand in size, becoming heavier and denser. Bone continues to be built in this manner until around the age of 30, when you reach peak bone mass, which is your bones’ maximum strength and density. Peak bone mass varies depending on how much physical activity you have done, the quality of your diet, and other genetic and environmental factors. Following peak bone mass, new bone is formed at the same rate as old bone is removed. However, as we age, the balance shifts and old bone is removed faster than new bone can be built.

Osteoporosis can occur when bone removal outpaces bone formation or when bone formation is slow and inefficient. As a result, the bones are thinner and lighter. You are more likely to develop osteoporosis if you do not reach your optimal peak bone mass or if you begin losing bone mass more rapidly in your twenties and thirties.

Why is osteoporosis more common in women?

In most cases, bone loss in women is caused by the hormone oestrogen. Estrogen performs a variety of functions, including aiding in the formation and maintenance of bone density. In most women, bone loss and bone formation occur at roughly the same rate between reaching peak bone mass and the onset of menopause. However, once a woman has completed her reproductive years, the level of oestrogen in her body decreases significantly, causing bone loss. After the first few years of menopause, the rate of bone loss gradually slows, but bone continues to be removed even after this time. By the age of 80, a woman may have lost up to 30 percent of her peak bone mass.

Osteoporosis affects many men as well. By the age of 65, men and women have the same rate of bone loss and the same number of osteoporosis-related spine fractures.

Osteoporosis facts

At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.

Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.

The lifetime risk of suffering from a hip fracture is 1 in 6, while the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 9.

An increased risk of death is associated with vertebral (spine) and hip fractures.

Our health care system spends more than $2 billion per year to treat patients with osteoporosis and osteoporosis-related fractures.

Osteoporosis is a preventable and treatable disease.

*These facts and figures can be found on Osteoporosis Canada’s website http://www.osteoporosis.ca.

How much do you know about osteoporosis? Test your knowledge by taking the Osteoporosis Quiz.

Think you may be at risk for osteoporosis and fractures? Take our quick fracture risk assessment test and find out!

Want to learn the proper way to exercise to build stronger bones? Get your copy of the UHN Osteoporosis Exercise Guide, a unique book co-authored by Dr. Angela M. Cheung, Director of the UHN Osteoporosis Program.