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Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, and if you have it, you are at a greater risk for sudden and unexpected bone fractures. Osteoporosis means that you have less bone mass and strength. The disease often develops without any symptoms or pain, and it is usually not discovered until the weakened bones cause painful fractures. Most of these are fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine.
About 54 million people are estimated to have osteoporosis throughout the U.S., which occurs in both men and women, although women are four times more likely to develop the disease than men. After age 50, one in two women and one in four men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture.
Researchers understand how osteoporosis develops even without knowing the exact cause of why it develops. Your bones are made of living, growing tissue. The inside of healthy bone looks like a sponge. This area is called the trabecular bone. An outer shell of dense bone wraps around the spongy bone. This hard shell is called cortical bone. When osteoporosis occurs, the "holes" in the "sponge" grow larger and more numerous, which weakens the inside of the bone.
Bones support the body and protect vital organs. Bones also store calcium and other minerals. When the body needs calcium, it breaks down and rebuilds bone. This process, called bone remodeling, supplies the body with needed calcium while keeping the bones strong. Up until about age 30, you normally build more bone than you lose. After age 35, bone breakdown occurs faster than bone buildup, which causes a gradual loss of bone mass. If you have osteoporosis, you lose bone mass at a greater rate. After menopause, the rate of bone breakdown occurs even more quickly.