Health Topics

Facts About Osteoporosis

Prevalence of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for more than 28 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have the disease and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Learn more by viewing the facts below:

  • 80 percent of those affected by osteoporosis are women.
  • 8 million American women and 2 million men have osteoporosis, and millions more have low bone density.
  • 1 in 2 white women, and 1 in 8 white men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetimes.
  • 10 percent of African American women over age 50 have osteoporosis. An additional 30 percent have low bone density that puts them at risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Although osteoporosis is often thought of as an older person's disease, it can strike at any age.
  • Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including about:
  • 300,000 hip fractures
  • 700,000 vertebral (spine) fractures
  • 250,000 wrist fractures
  • 300,000 fractures at other sites


Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People might not know they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump or fall causes a fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebrae might initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height or spinal deformities such as kyphosis or stooped posture.

Detecting Osteoporosis

A specialized test called a bone density test (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry [DXA]) can measure bone density in various sites of the body, typically the spine and hip. A bone density test can:

  • Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
  • Predict your chances of fracturing in the future
  • Determine your rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more


By about age 20, the average woman has acquired 98 percent of her skeletal mass. Building strong bone during childhood and adolescence can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis later. A comprehensive program that can help prevent osteoporosis includes:

  • A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Weight-bearing exercise
  • A healthy lifestyle with no smoking and limited alcohol intake
  • Bone density testing and medicine when appropriate

Medicines for Osteoporosis

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are several medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for postmenopausal women to either prevent and/or treat osteoporosis:

  • Bisphosphonates: alendronate, risedronate, ibandronate and zoledronic acid
  • Calcitonin
  • Estrogen or hormone therapy
  • Raloxifene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)
  • Teriparatide (PTH)
  • Treatments under investigation include other SERMs, strontium and sodium fluoride.

For more information on osteoporosis, download the Free Osteoporosis Treatment Guide.