Top 5 Things to Know About Your Bones

Brittle bones can really sneak up on you. Here's what you need to know about your bones to make sure that doesn't happen.

Physiotherapist giving leg massage to a woman in clinic

Medically reviewed in June 2021

Osteoporosis -- a disease that causes weak, thinning bones -- can really sneak up on you. Perhaps a fracture in your wrist, hip, or spine was the first sign of a problem. That's because there really aren't any obvious symptoms to osteoporosis, even though it's a common condition. The good news is that it is manageable. And learning all you can about osteoporosis is the first step to taking charge of your bone health.

1. Bones Change with Age
Anyone can develop osteoporosis at any age, but more than half of people in the United States age 50 and over have osteoporosis or osteopenia, a condition that indicates low bone mass. And the percentage of people affected by these conditions increases with age. (Learn more about late-life osteoporosis.)

2. Your Bones Know Your Family
Your ethnicity and family history matter to your bones. Being of Asian or non-Hispanic Caucasian descent or having a parent with a history of osteoporosis or bone fracture raises your risk.

3. Body Build Matters
Having a small frame or naturally thin bones and being female means you start with a slight disadvantage in the race to keep your bones beautiful and strong. But you can overcome that with the right health choices and medical screening and care. (Trouble interpreting your bone density test results? Here's what they mean.)

4. Bones Love a Head Start
If you have osteoporosis or mild bone thinning, there are many things you can do to help prevent and minimize long-term complications of the disease. It starts with your doctor. The right treatment program and lifestyle could help keep your bones in great shape. (When should you talk to your doctor about your bone health?)

5. You're in Control
While there are some factors related to bone loss that you can't control -- like your age, family history, and build -- there are plenty of other factors you can and should control. Things like what you eat (foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are key, but there's more), how active you are (exercise and activity build bone, but you have to do the right kind), what medications you take (certain ones may encourage bone thinning), and how healthy you are (smoking and drinking too much can make bones weak) all contribute to the health of your bones.

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