faces of osteoporosis

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Osteoporosis & Osteopenia

Just the facts

What’s the difference? Osteoporosis is a disease that breaks down the tissue in our bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. Osteopenia is not a disease, but a term that describes low bone density. Both can lead to painful fractures. Every day we learn more about both of these conditions and how to prevent them.

While osteopenia is not considered a disease, being diagnosed with osteopenia requires further monitoring. Preventive measures should be taken since osteoporosis may develop if bone density loss increases.


Osteoporosis, or a condition of porous bone, is a disease in which bones become more fragile. Left untreated, osteoporosis can progress silently until a bone breaks. In many cases, early prevention and treatment can make a big difference.

Bone is living, growing tissue constantly being formed and broken down. Early in life, more bone tissue is formed than broken down, allowing the skeleton to grow. By about age 30 your bones are at your lifetime best, or your "peak bone mass." After this peak, bone maintains an equilibrium until about age 50 in women and 60 in men. Then, bone breaks down faster than it forms. The resulting bone loss affects both men and women. Bone loss can lead to osteoporosis.

Today, osteoporosis is a major health threat for 44 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. In the United States, 10 million individuals already have the disease and 34 million more have low bone density, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Osteoporosis is the most common cause of hip fractures, a tragedy that can result in permanent disability, loss of independence or death. A woman's risk of a hip fracture is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

Fact Sheet: Osteoporosis

  • Osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans (California's population is around 34 million) at a cost of $17 billion dollars annually.
  • One out of two women and one out of eight men will be affected by osteoporosis in their lifetime.
  • Having osteoporosis puts people at higher risk for fractures that are painful, can be disfiguring, and reduce their ability to lead active lives.
  • In a recent study, one half of all women over 50 years old had osteoporosis or low bone mass and did not know it.
  • Only 35% of American adults consume the recommended daily allowance of calcium.
  • An estimated 14 million men in the United States currently have low bone mass or osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis is treatable and may be preventable.
  • People need to know their risk for osteoporosis and talk to their doctors about diagnosis, prevention, and treatment strategies.

Fact Sheet: Osteoporosis [pdf document]
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