Osteoporosis is generally regarded as a metabolic bone disorder—the rate of bone loss (resorption) speeds up while the rate of making new bone tissue slows down. Levels of calcium and phosphate salts decline so that the bones become porous, brittle, and susceptible to fracture for lack of new bone tissue to replace old tissue. You end up with literally less bone (or skeletal mass) in the body and the bone you have is more fragile and subject to fracture.
Each year in the U.S., 1.5 million people over 45 years of age experience bone fractures associated with osteoporosis, mainly in the vertebral column, wrist, and hip. While these fractures can be painful, and vertebral fractures can lead to skeletal deformity, hip fractures are even more serious—20% of older people with hip fractures die within a year of the fracture. The resulting immobility of hip fractures becomes debilitating in and of itself and causes a downward spiral with rapid loss of muscle, bone, endurance, strength, and appetite. The estimated health-care costs due to osteoporotic fractures is $10-$15 billion per year.
While people commonly associate easily broken bones with osteoporosis, many may not realize just how serious the disease is. A woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis is higher than the combined risks of developing uterine, ovarian, and breast cancers, and osteoporosis is the fourth leading cause of death in American women. Osteoporosis affects women more than men because women have less bone mass than men and begin to lose bone far earlier. Up to age 35, men and women have equal bone stability. For women, the most rapid rate of bone loss occurs in the first five years after menopause, beginning around age 45, when body hormone supplies undergo a dramatic change. Virtually all women lose 5% to 10% of bone mass during this period. The rate of bone loss then drops to about 1% per year.” Men don’t experience bone loss until after age 70, but once they do contract osteoporosis, the condition can be severe.