What Is Bone Loss?
Although bones may seem like hard and lifeless structures, bones are living tissues that are like muscle. Bones respond to exercise and a healthy diet by becoming stronger. Bones make up our skeletons and provide structure and support for our bodies. However, bones are more than that; they also act like a storehouse for minerals that our bodies need, such as calcium. During a person's lifetime, the body constantly breaks down old bone (through a process called resorption) and builds up new bone. Any time old bone is broken down faster than new bone is made, net bone loss occurs. Bone loss can lead to low bone density (osteopenia), weakness of the bone, and eventually osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis (or porous bone) is a disease in which bones become weak and fragile. Porous bones are more likely to break. Osteoporosis is a serious disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Without prevention or treatment, osteoporosis can progress without pain or symptoms until a bone breaks (fracture). Fractures commonly occur in the hip, spine, and wrist. Osteoporosis is the underlying cause of more than 1.5 million fractures annually (300,000 hip fractures, approximately 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 fractures in other areas). The estimated national cost (hospitals and nursing homes) for osteoporosis and related injuries is $14 billion each year in the United States.
Bruce A Baethge, MD
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