Your bones are your foundation. But what if that foundation started to crumble? That's the concerning reality of osteoporosis, a disease nearly everyone has heard of but without a single identified cause. 

Osteoporosis Canada started Osteoporosis Month to turn up the volume on the conversation about the disease. Here are answers to some common questions surrounding osteoporosis:

What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is the decrease, often gradual, of bone mass and bone tissue. As a result of this decline, bones are at a high risk of fracture. Osteoporosis is known as the "silent thief" because bones can degrade over a number of years without any sign of issues. Bones can get so weak that a simple sneeze or stumble can cause them to shatter. 

osteoporosisOsteoporosis commonly affects the hip.

How many Canadians have osteoporosis?
Two million Canadians have osteoporosis. More than 80% of all fractures in people aged 50 and older are caused by the disease. The most common fractures caused by osteoporosis are those in the spine, wrist, hip and shoulder. 

What are the causes of osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is particularly problematic because by the time bones break, the disease has already reached an advanced stage. Researchers have not yet identified a single cause of osteoporosis, making preventative care more difficult. 

Bone strength is associated with osteoporosis rates, however, there are some risk factors that have been correlated with the disease. These include:

  • Being over 65 years of age 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • History of a fall in the past 12 months

Are men and women affected differently by osteoporosis?
Women more commonly develop osteoporosis. This can likely be attributed, in part, to menopause, which can significantly lower estrogen levels and lead to a decrease in bone tissue. For the first 5 to 10 years after menopause, women can experience bone loss at the rapid rate of 2 to 5% each year. 

"Both men and women begin to lose bone density in their mid-thirties."

However, men are not safe from osteoporosis. An estimated 1 in 3 women will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during her lifetime, while 1 in 5 men will. Both men and women begin to lose bone density in their mid-thirties, and the decline in testosterone that men experience as they age can also up their risk for developing osteoporosis. Research shows 20 to 30% of osteoporotic fractures happen to men. 

How can you prevent osteoporosis?
Though there is no guaranteed way to prevent osteoporosis, individuals can practice healthy habits over their lifetime to support their bones to be as strong as possible. 

The most critical time for prevention may be childhood. Osteoporosis has been called "a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences" because what people do early on in life has a big impact on their bone health later. According to Dietitians Canada, getting ample calcium when bones are growing can help prevent osteoporosis later in life.

However, there are still steps you can take when you are older to ward off osteoporosis. Regular exercise can help strengthen your muscles to reduce the risk of falls. A diet rich in calcium can help support your bones. Osteoporosis Canada recommends that adults over 50 consume 1,200 mg of calcium a day. Some good food sources of calcium are: 

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt

Supplements can also help you reach your recommended daily value of calcium. To help your body absorb the calcium, it's crucial that you also consume adequate amounts of Vitamin D. Osteoporosis Canada advises that adults over 50 get 800-2000 IU of Vitamin D per day.  

How can I get involved with Osteoporosis Month?
Get started by taking the "Know Your Risk" quiz on Osteoporosis Canada's website. Check out the videos on living well with osteoporosis or make a donation to the charity. 

You can also attend events held by the 21 Canadian Chapters of Osteoporosis Canada throughout the month. Virtual Education Forums are being hosted online, during which, Canadian health experts share their preventative tips and advice for living well with osteoporosis. There are also unique events like "Bone'N'Beer," a live auction held in British Columbia to raise awareness about osteoporosis risk among young men. 

Osteoporosis can steal your bone mass without you even knowing it. Take part in Osteoporosis Month to help others learn to prevent and treat this silent thief.