Q: What is osteoporosis?
A: In osteoporosis, the bones become porous and thin. Over time, this weakens the bones and may make them more likely to break.
Osteoporosis is much more common in women than in men. This is because women have less bone than men, tend to live longer and take in less calcium, and need the female hormone estrogen to keep their bones strong. If men live long enough, they are also at risk of getting osteoporosis later in life.
Once total bone has peaked-around age 35-all adults start to lose it. In women, the rate of bone loss speeds up during menopause, when their ovaries stop making estrogen. Bone loss also may start to occur if both ovaries are removed by surgery.
Q: What are the signs of osteoporosis?
A: You may not know you have osteoporosis until you have serious signs. Signs include a broken wrist or hip, low back pain or a hunched back. You may get shorter over time. This is because osteoporosis can cause the bones in your spine called the vertebrae to collapse. These are called compression fractures and can cause severe back pain. These problems usually occur after a lot of bone calcium has been lost
For more on osteoporosis, call the Osteoporosis Society of Canada at 1-800-977-1778.
For more information on this and other health topics, visit the College of Family Physicians of Canada's (CFPC's) Web site www.cfpc.ca or talk to your family doctor.
If you have questions on this or other health topics you'd like to see addressed in future articles, please e-mail healthtopics@CFPC.ca.