When you have osteoporosis, your bones lose density and become more fragile and easier to break. The bones in the hip, wrist or spine are the most vulnerable.

Women are four times as likely to develop osteoporosis as men. Your risk for osteoporosis increases with age and if you:

  • Have a family history of osteoporosis
  • Are thin or have a small frame
  • Go through menopause early
  • Are Caucasian or Asian
  • Don't get enough calcium and vitamin D
  • Don't exercise regularly
  • Smoke or drink too much alcohol
  • Have an abnormal absence of menstrual periods
  • Take certain drugs, including glucocorticoids and anti-seizure medications

What you can do to help prevent or treat osteoporosis

Most bone is built up by the time you're 30. But you can still build up your bone strength and help reduce your risk of osteoporosis at any age by:

  • Getting enough calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercising regularly, focusing on weight-bearing exercises that strengthen your bones
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Eating a nutrient-rich diet

If you know your bones are weak, practice good posture and safeguard your home to reduce your chances of falling.

Certain drugs help prevent and treat osteoporosis. If you have several risk factors, or tests have shown you have bone loss, ask your doctor if you'd benefit from medication.

How to talk to your doctor

Discuss your risk factors with your doctor to determine if you should be taking additional preventive measures. And be sure to get a bone mineral density (BMD) test if you're 65 or older or at high risk for osteoporosis.

See your doctor right away if you suspect a fracture or broken bone or have chronic back pain.