Osteoporosis is a silent disease that causes bones to become thin and weak, leading to an increased risk of fractures. Men and women over the age of 50 are especially at risk for the serious health issues that weak bones can cause.\nEvery year, 1.5 million Americans suffer a fracture \u2013 most often of the hip, spine, or wrist \u2014 due to osteoporosis. In older adults, fractures can result from minor bumps, falls, bending, lifting, or even coughing. In fact, hip fractures are a leading cause of loss of independence and death in the elderly.\nWhat Is Osteoporosis?\nBone is a living tissue that breaks down and rebuilds its structure throughout life. Osteoporosis occurs when old bone isn\u2019t replaced as quickly by new bone, resulting in a loss of bone mass. Since bone loss builds up over time, our bones become weaker as we age.\nBone mass that is not low enough to be considered osteoporosis is a condition called osteopenia. It is possible to have osteopenia for a lifetime and never develop osteoporosis.\nHow is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?\nYou cannot see or feel your bones becoming thinner or weaker, so most people don\u2019t know they have weak bones until one breaks. Bone mineral density testing can diagnose osteoporosis. A DXA scan \u2014 a quick, painless, low-dose x-ray of the hip and spine that measures bone density \u2014is used to diagnose both osteoporosis and osteopenia.\nHow is Osteoporosis Treated?\nAccording to orthopaedic surgeon, Alan H. Klein, MD, if test results indicate that you have osteoporosis, your doctor or health care provider may prescribe a medication to help prevent additional bone loss or rebuild bone.\nPeople diagnosed with osteopenia need to be regularly monitored. Medicine may also be prescribed for those with significant risk factors for osteoporosis or fracture. Blood tests are used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.\nWays to Improve Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis\nSince bone loss builds up over time, our bones become weaker as we age. You can help decrease bone loss through lifestyle choices that begin in childhood and continue throughout life. These lifestyle choices include:\n\nEat a healthy that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as foods rich in calcium \u2013 dairy products (low-fat or nonfat milk, cheese, yogurt); dark green, leafy vegetables (bok choy, broccoli); nuts (especially almonds); and calcium-fortified products.\nGet plenty of vitamin D through sunlight, fortified milk, or supplements.\nBe physically active with weight-bearing (walking, running, etc.) and muscle strengthening (weight lifting, etc.) exercises.\nAvoid smoking.\nLimit your alcohol intake.\nTake steps to prevent falls, including installing safety features in your home and having your vision checked regularly.\nDiscuss your bone health with your doctor or health care provider.