Osteoporosis is a condition that is marked by a decrease in bone mass and density, causing bones to become fragile.

You may not know you have osteoporosis until you break a bone or suffer a collapsed vertebra. Talk with your doctor about your risks for osteoporosis and what you can do to prevent it. 

Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?

Here are the risk factors for osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation:

  • Female
  • Thin or small frame
  • Increased age
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Post-menopause, including early or surgically induced menopause
  • Abnormal absence of menstrual periods
  • Past history of eating disorders anorexia nervosa or bulimia
  • A lifelong diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • Use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids and some anticonvulsants
  • Low testosterone levels (in men)
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive use of alcohol and caffeine
  • Being Caucasian or Asian

Osteoporosis often acts as an underlying cause of compression fractures. As osteoporosis thins bones, they can become too weak to bear normal pressure. And when a vertebra becomes too weak to withstand normal pressure, it may take very little additional pressure to cause it to collapse. Eventually, even normal activity can cause a compression fracture in a spine already weakened by osteoporosis. Bending forward, for example, can be enough to cause a "crush fracture" in a weakened vertebra. This type of fracture causes the loss of body height and a humped back (kyphosis), especially in elderly women. Forty percent of all women will have at least one spinal compression fracture by the time they turn 80 years old, making it the most common type of fracture associated with osteoporosis.