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May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month: Protect Your Bones for Future Mobility

May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month: Protect Your Bones for Future Mobility

Osteoporosis is an elusive disease. Most people won’t have any symptoms until they break a bone. But falling and breaking a bone is not a normal part of the aging process. Osteoporosis is a disease, and like many diseases it is both preventable and treatable. It’s important to be proactive about protecting bone health before you run into trouble. May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month, so why not start today!

To understand osteoporosis, you first have to understand the important role that bone plays in the body. You probably associate bones with a hard, lifeless skeleton. Actually, bone is a complex living tissue. In addition to supporting the body and protecting vital organs, bones store calcium and other minerals. When the body needs calcium, it breaks down and rebuilds bone in a process known as remodeling.

From the time we are born until about age 30, we build more bone than we lose. After age 35, bone breakdown outpaces bone buildup, resulting in a gradual loss of bone mass. Midlife is a critical turning point for a woman’s bone health. The inside of healthy bone resembles a sponge. When osteoporosis occurs, the "holes" in the "sponge" grow larger and more numerous, weakening the internal structure of the bone.

Osteoporosis significantly increases an individual’s risk of fracture. A woman’s risk of hip fracture alone is equal to the combined risk of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer. Sadly, statistics show that almost 40 percent of elderly people who have a hip fracture die within one year, either from complications of the fracture or its treatment, or from being immobilized during recovery. Those who survive run the risk of losing their independence.

For more information, visit the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health.