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What you should know – and what you can do – about osteoporosis

Women walking along a road outdoors

/ by UK HealthCare

An estimated 54 million Americans have low bone density and many don’t know it. Low bone density means that you’re more likely to break a bone and much more likely to develop osteoporosis – a bone disease that occurs when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both.

Osteoporosis isn’t painful – it’s known as a silent disease because it usually has no symptoms – typically you won’t realize that you have osteoporosis until you break a bone. Although women make up 80 percent of osteoporosis cases – anyone can get it. As you age, you’re more likely to get it, and genetics can play a role, too.

Reduce your risk

However, there’s good news. You can slow the process of osteoporosis and low bone density – here’s how:

  • Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake.
  • Exercise several times a week – even if it’s just walking or dancing.
  • Improve your diet – especially your calcium intake. You can do this through eating leafy green vegetables and dairy products – both high in calcium.
  • Get enough vitamin D – through supplements or exposure to sunlight.
  • Your doctor might also recommend medication, hormone therapy or estrogen therapy.

The best way to tell if you’re at risk is asking your doctor for a bone mineral density test, which is like an X-ray. It can help your doctor tell how likely you are to break a bone.

The best plan is to be proactive – just like you brush your teeth to keep them healthy, you should exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet to keep your bones healthy and strong.

Next steps: