American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine


In October 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General released a full report on bone health and osteoporosis. The report includes fact sheets and tips on improving bone health. Osteoporosis, known as the silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms, leads to fragile bones and an increased risk of fractures. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans with women accounting for 80 percent of this total.

Many people discover they have osteoporosis when their weakened bones cause painful fractures. Each year, this disease causes more than 1.5 million fractures of the hip, wrist and vertebrae.

Because there is no cure for osteoporosis, the key to fighting this condition is prevention. Diet, vitamin D and exercise play key roles in avoiding osteoporosis.

Painless and accurate medical tests can provide information about bone health. Bone Mineral Testing, or bone measurements, use X-rays at very small amounts of radiation to determine the bone density of the spine, hip, wrist or heel.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the benefits of these tests include detecting osteoporosis before a fracture occurs; predicting your chances of fracture in the future; determining your rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted annually.

The treatment of osteoporosis is similar to the means for preventing this condition. Adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D remain essential in keeping bones strong and reducing the risk of fractures. In addition, weight-bearing exercise continues to help reduce the chance of bone loss. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy is needed.

As the aging population increases rapidly, many Americans will be afflicted with osteoporosis. However, with the help of education, preventive measures, early detection and treatment, this "silent disease" will no longer take people by surprise.

Foods that help

A diet rich in calcium is needed throughout people’s lives. For adults, the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance for calcium is 1,000 milligrams per day. As people age, the need for calcium becomes greater.

Vitamin D is also important because it allows the body to absorb calcium. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 200 units. It can be obtained by getting five to 15 minutes of sunlight a week or by consuming fortified milk.

Exercise too

Exercise can also help keep bones strong and prevent bone loss. The best exercises are those that force the body to work against gravity, such as the weight-bearing exercises of walking, jogging and aerobics.

Some Risk Factors

  • Being female

  • Having a thin or small frame

  • Experiencing post-menopause, early menopause or surgically induced menopause

  • Suffering from an eating disorder

  • Being of Caucasian or Asian descent.

Additional Information