Osteoporosis, which means "porous bones," is a preventable and treatable disease that thins and weakens your bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It is sometimes called a "silent disease" because it can develop gradually over many years without causing any symptoms. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) estimates as many as eight million women in the U.S. have osteoporosis, and that by 2020, 14 million people over age 50 will have osteoporosis.

Although men can also suffer from osteoporosis, the vast majority of individuals affected by osteoporosis are women. In fact, the annual number of osteoporotic fractures in women is greater than the number of heart attacks, strokes, and cases of breast cancer combined. Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis of the spine than men.

Although the disease can strike at any age, women are at greatest risk for osteoporosis after menopause. With menopause, bone loss occurs faster than new bone can form as a result of lower levels of estrogen, leading to osteoporosis. In fact, women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone density in the five to seven years after menopause begins. This decreased bone mineral density weakens the bone and puts women at higher risk for fractures or broken bones.

(This information was provided by HealthyWomen. For more information on osteoporosis, click here. HealthyWomen is an NCWO affiliate.)

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