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Fall Prevention and Osteoporosis (cont.)

What Is the Link Between Osteoporosis and Risk of Broken Bones From a Fall?

Certain factors, such as female gender, family history of osteoporosis, use of medicines that increase bone loss, small body size, and an inactive lifestyle, are associated with increased risk of developing osteoporosis (see Prevention of Osteoporosis and Bone Mineral Density Tests for details on risk factors or take a 1-minute osteoporosis risk test from the International Osteoporosis Foundation).

People with osteoporosis have thinner, weaker bones compared to the average healthy population, but people with osteoporosis often do not know they have it. This is because osteoporosis has no symptoms, so many people do not know they have weak bones until they have an unexpected fracture. For example, a simple everyday movement such as picking up a grocery bag causes a broken bone or a slip and fall in a parking lot causes a broken hip, and that is the first "symptom."

Preventing osteoporosis and treating it to prevent further bone loss is essential to protect against broken bones. The bottom line is to preserve the bone mass and density a person has to decrease the risk of broken bones (osteoporotic fractures) and disability. The many treatments available today have been shown to work quickly (within one year), and they reduce the risk of fracture by up to 50%. The choice of treatment should fit a person's specific medical needs and lifestyle, so talk to a doctor (see Treatment of Osteoporosis and Prevention of Osteoporosis).

The following steps may prevent osteoporosis (porous bone) and osteopenia (weak bones):

  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D from the diet to keep bones strong.
  • Exercise regularly (especially weight-bearing and resistance exercises).
  • Talk to the doctor about bone density tests (for example, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry [DXA or DEXA] scanning) for early detection of osteoporosis.
  • If osteoporosis or osteopenia has occurred, talk to the doctor about medications to reduce bone loss.

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