Women's Health USA 2007
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Health Status > Health Indicators

Osteoporosis is the most common underlying cause of fractures in the elderly, but it is not frequently diagnosed or treated, even among individuals who have already suffered a fracture. An estimated 10 million Americans now have osteoporosis, while another 34 million have low bone mass and are at risk for developing osteoporosis; 80 percent of them are women. By 2020, an estimated 1 in 2 Americans over age 50 will be at risk for osteoporosis and low bone mass. Each year more than 1.5 million people suffer a bone fracture related to osteoporosis, with the most common breaks in the wrist, spine and hip. Fractures can have devastating consequences. For example, hip fractures are associated with an increased risk of mortality, and nearly 1 in 5 hip fracture patients ends up in a nursing home within a year. Direct care for osteoporotic fractures costs $18 billion yearly.1

In 2003-04, women aged 18 years and older were more likely than men to report having been told by a health professional that they have osteoporosis (10.0 versus 1.7 percent, respectively.) In addition, 72.4 percent of women with osteoporosis received treatment, compared to 52.1 percent of men. The rate of osteoporosis among women varied significantly with age. While only 5.3 percent aged 1864 years had osteoporosis in 2003-04, 33.8 percent of women aged 7584 years and 32.9 percent of those aged 85 years and older reported having osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis may be prevented and treated by getting the recommended amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and regular weight-bearing physical activity (i.e. walking), and by taking prescription medication when appropriate. Bone density tests are recommended for women over 65 years and for any man or woman who suffers a fracture after age 50. Treatment of osteoporosis has been shown to reduce the risk of subsequent fractures by 3065 percent.1 Despite these findings, national data in 2005 indicate that only 20.1 percent of female Medicare beneficiaries aged 67 years and older who had a fracture received either a bone mineral density test or a prescription to treat osteoporosis.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Office of the Surgeon General; 2004.


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.