Osteoporosis, a disease of your bones, is tricky. You may not even know you have it until you break a bone, and that means that the disease is already well advanced.
Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, but bone fractures of the spine—the vertebrae—are especially serious. Spinal fractures can cause severe back pain, and they can also lead to spinal deformity as your spine weakens and has difficulty supporting your weight. You may notice that your upper back starts to curve, causing you to hunch forward. Osteoporosis can also cause you to get shorter because your bones aren't as strong and supportive as they used to be.
Osteoporosis is most often seen in older people, but it can occur in younger people as well. Women, especially post-menopausal women, are the most susceptible to developing osteoporosis, but that doesn't mean that men can't get it, too. It's estimated that 80% of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis are women—meaning that 2 million men are living with osteoporosis.
The amazing thing about osteoporosis is that it's preventable. If you're at risk for developing osteoporosis (you can take a test to see if you're at risk), there are lifestyle choices and changes you can make to keep your bones strong and healthy through the years. You can watch your diet and make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. It's also important to exercise regularly by doing both weight bearing and strengthening exercises. Other lifestyle choices, such as smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, can also hurt your bones more than you know.