Osteoporosis (which means porous bone) is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. It is the most common type of bone disease, and occurs when not enough new bone is formed, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both. The minerals calcium and phosphate are essential for normal bone formation. As you age, these minerals may be reabsorbed into the body from the bones, which makes the bone tissue weaker. This can result in fragile bones that are more prone to fractures, even without injury. Usually, the loss occurs gradually over years. The leading causes of osteoporosis are a drop in the hormone oestrogen in women at the time of menopause and a drop in testosterone in men. The aims of osteoporosis treatment are to: control pain; slow down or stop bone loss; prevent bone fractures with medicines that strengthen bone; and minimise the risk of falls that might cause fractures. Exercise can reduce the chance of bone fractures, while following a diet that provides the proper amount of calcium, vitamin D and protein is important. Sometimes surgery may be used to treat small fractures in the spinal column by injecting a fast-hardening glue into the areas that are fractured or weak. Although osteoporosis is debilitating, it does not affect life expectancy.
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