U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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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. In 2005–2006, an estimated 10.5 million Americans over the age of 20 had osteoporosis, 84 percent of whom were women. Among adults aged 20 years and older, 8.1 percent of women and 1.7 percent of men reported having ever been told by a health professional that they have osteoporosis. The rate of osteoporosis among women varied significantly with race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic White women were most likely to have osteoporosis (9.9 percent), compared to non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women (3.2 and 3.5 percent, respectively).

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 is admitted to a nursing home within a year.1 In 2006, there were 237,000 hospital discharges due to hip fractures among women aged 18 and older, a rate of 20.5 per 10,000 women. Rates of hospital discharges due to hip fractures were highest among women aged 75 years and older (169.9 discharges per 10,000 women), followed by women aged 65– 74 years (28.3 per 10,000 women).

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 for osteoporosis has been shown to reduce the risk of subsequent fractures by 30–65 percent.1 Among women who had been told by a health professional that they have osteoporosis, 76.1 percent reported having been treated for the condition (data not shown).

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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