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Bone is a living tissue comprised mainly of calcium and protein. Healthy bone is always being remolded, that is, small amounts are being absorbed in your body and small amounts are being replaced. If more bone calcium is absorbed than is replaced, the density or the mass of the bone is reduced. The bone becomes progessively weaker, increasing the risk that it may break.

Osteoporosis means "porous bone". This condition develops when bone is no larger replaced as quickly as it is removed. More than 1.5 million fractures occur related to osteoporosis each year. Most people are unaware that they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs.

The exact medical cause for osteoporosis is not known, but a number of factors are know to cause osteoporosis: aging, physical inactivity, reduced levels of estrogen, heredity, excessive Cortisone or thyroid hormone, smoking, and excessive alcohol intake. Although osteoporosis will occur in all persons as they age, the rate of progression and the effects can be modified with proper early diagnosis and treatment.

During growth and young adulthood, adequate calcium nutrition and Vitamin D and regular weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and dancing three to four hours a week, build strong bones and are investments in future bone health. Smoking and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol should be avoided because they increase bone loss. As people age, appropriate intake of calcium and vitamin D and regular exercise, as well as avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol use, are necessary to reduce loss of bone mass.

At the Bone Joint Institute, we can evaluate whether your bone density has been reduced, and can even evaluate the cause for the reduction. Early treatment for osteoporosis is the most effective way to reduce bone loss and prevent fractures. However, treatment programs after a fracture also are of value and may help to prevent future fractures.