Osteoporosis is a disease of bone in which bones become weaker and more porous over time. When bones are weaker, they break more easily. The process of bone weakening can happen very slowly, starting from a person’s early 30s, but the process speeds up quickly during and after menopause.
You cannot feel your bones becoming porous or losing strength. That’s why osteoporosis is called a “silent disease.” But if you are over 50 and have experienced a broken bone (even if you had an accident), or if you are nearing menopause and your mother had osteoporosis, you should visit your doctor and ask about a bone density test.
As you will read in this section of the Web site, a bone density test measures your bone mineral density, or BMD, which is the only objective way to diagnose osteoporosis. Bone density tests are also used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. The test itself is completely painless. A machine simply goes over your body and measures the thickness of your bones.
Having osteoporosis might make you want to take better care of your bones in order to avoid a fracture. Exercising and eating well are things you can control that will strengthen your bones. Taking your osteoporosis medicine exactly as your doctor tells you to is the most important thing you can do. If you are having trouble with your medicine for any reason, make sure you tell your doctor about it.
Unfortunately, men, too, are susceptible to osteoporosis, although generally at an older age than women. It is estimated that 20% of people with osteoporosis are men.