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14.1 million Americans ages 50 and older suffer osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects 14.1 million Americans ages 50 and older.  (Web MD)
Osteoporosis affects 14.1 million Americans ages 50 and older. (Web MD)
By Linda Searing Special To The Washington Post

About 14.1 million Americans who are age 50 and older (equivalent to nearly 13% of that age group) have osteoporosis, meaning their bones have become weak and brittle and more prone to break.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that far more women than men have the bone-thinning condition – about 20% of women in the 50-and-older age group compared with just 4% of men that age. Osteoporosis becomes more prevalent as people age, with nearly 27% of women and 6% of men 65 and older having osteoporosis.

Additionally, the CDC notes that even more older adults have what is considered a precursor to osteoporosis: low bone mass, also called low bone density or osteopenia. About 43% of adults 50 and older (some 48 million people) have low bone density. This condition also affects more women than men (52% vs. 33%).

Not everyone who has low bone density will develop osteoporosis, but the condition does make bone breakage more likely and increases the risk for progression to osteoporosis.

In 2016, 1.8 million Medicare recipients suffered more than 2 million bone fractures due to osteoporosis, according to a National Osteoporosis Foundation report.

To keep bones strong, health experts generally recommend a diet high in calcium and vitamin D, as well as weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, dancing or stair climbing). Sometimes, medication such as a bisphosphonate can be prescribed to slow the rate of bone loss.

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