Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.

Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone.

Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.


There typically are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you might have signs and symptoms that include:

  • Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone that breaks much more easily than expected

Did you know?

If you have osteoporosis, a sneeze can break your bones.

If your bones have been severely weakened by osteoporosis, it doesn’t take much to cause a break. Even a minor fall from a standing position—tripping on carpet or while getting up from a chair, for example—can break a bone. You can fracture something simply by bumping into your table. A routine sneeze can do it for some patients with advanced osteoporosis.

Half of all women will break bones due to osteoporosis.

Women have a higher chance of having an osteoporosis-related fracture than they do of having a heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined. Half of women can expect to break a bone at some point in their lives due to this illness, twice the rate of men. Of the 10 million Americans living with osteoporosis today, 80% are women.

Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one-fifth of women aged 70, two-fifths of women aged 80 and two-thirds of women aged 90.

Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.