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 2005–2008, an estimated 6.3 million Americans aged 65 years and older had osteoporosis, nearly 90 percent of whom were women. Among adults in this age group, 27.3 percent of women and 4.2 percent of men reported having ever been told by a health professional that they have osteoporosis. Estimates of osteoporosis prevalence among women varied significantly by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Black women were least likely to have osteoporosis (11.1 percent), compared to about 28 percent of Mexican American and other Hispanic women, and 29.2 percent of non-Hispanic White women.

Each year more than 1.5 million people suffer a bone fracture related to osteoporosis, with the most common breaks occurring 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 2007, there were 208,000 hospital discharges due to hip fractures among women aged 18 and older, nearly half of which occurred among women aged 85 and older. Hospital discharge rates due to hip fractures were 271.8 per 10,000 women aged 85 and older, and 83.7 per 10,000 women aged 75–84 years.

Osteoporosis may be prevented and treated by getting the recommended amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and regular weight-bearing physical activity (such as walking), and by taking prescription medication when appropriate. Bone density tests are now recommended for women aged 65 and older, men aged 70 and older, any man or woman who suffers a fracture after age 50, and any postmenopausal women who have a risk factor, including low weight, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and family history of a broken hip.2

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.
2 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.  Screening for Osteoporosis: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement DRAFT.  Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2010.

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