What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by loss of bone density and gradual weakening
of the bones that causes them to become prone to fractures.  It is a serious health
problem, affecting millions of Americans.  Osteoporosis is the most common bone
disease, afflicting over 10 million people in the United States.  About 18 million Americans
have low bone mass, or osteopenia, and are at risk for developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is most common in older women, but it can also affect men. Eighty percent
of the people diagnosed with osteoporosis are women. It is responsible for more than 1.5
million fractures annually, 700,000 of them in the spine, 300,000 in hips, and 250,000 in
the wrists.  By extreme old age, one in three women and one in six men will have
sustained a hip fracture. An elderly person with a broken hip is four times more likely to
die within three months, and one in five people with a hip fracture ends up in a nursing
home within a year.  

Up to $18 billion are spent annually on medical expenses, including hospitalization costs
and acute and long-term care, to treat broken bones resulting from osteoporosis.
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