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The Big Number: 14.1 million Americans 50 and older suffer osteoporosis

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About 14.1 million Americans who are 50 and older (equivalent to nearly 13 percent 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 percent of women in the 50-and-older age group, compared with just 4 percent of men that age. Osteoporosis becomes more prevalent as people age, with nearly 27 percent of women and 6 percent of men 65 and older having osteoporosis. In addition, 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 percent of adults 50 and older (some 48 million people) have low bone density. This condition also affects more women than men (52 percent vs. 33 percent). 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.

— Linda Searing

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