VCU Program for Osteoporosis and Bone Health


Osteoporosis, which means "porous bones," causes bones to become weak and brittle so brittle that even mild stresses like bending over, lifting a vacuum cleaner or coughing can cause a fracture. In most cases, bones weaken when you have low levels of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals in your bones. Osteoporosis can also accompany endocrine disorders or result from excessive use of drugs such as corticosteroids.

In the United States, osteoporosis causes more than 1.5 million fractures every year most of them in the spine, hip or wrist. And although it's often thought of as a women's disease, osteoporosis affects many men as well. About 8 million American women and 2 million American men have osteoporosis, and nearly 18 million more Americans may have low bone density. Even children aren't immune.

Hip fracture

Risk Factors

  • Gender - Women have a greater risk of Osteoporosis
  • Age - As you age you are at a higher risk for Osteoporosis
  • Ethnicity - Caucasian and Asian women are at a higher risk
  • Body Size - Small, thin-boned women are most susceptible
  • Family History - If you have a family history of bone disease or fractures you are at a higher risk
  • Sex Hormones - low estrogen and testosterone levels can lead to osteoporosis
  • Lifetime exposure to estrogen - The greater a woman's lifetime exposure to estrogen, the lower the risk of osteoporosis. For example, you have a lower risk if you have a late menopause or you began menstruating at an earlier-than-average age. But if you have a history of abnormal menstrual periods, experience menopause earlier than your late 40s or have your ovaries surgically removed before age 45 without receiving hormone therapy, your risk is increased
  • Taking Certain Medications -glucocorticoids or some anticonvulsants can increase risk
  • Eating Disorders - Anorexia can increase risk of Osteoporosis
  • Improper Diet - A diet low in calcium and Vitamin D
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Smoking
  • Drinking Alcohol
  • Depression


  • Back pain
  • Loss of height over time, with an accompanying stooped posture
  • Fracture of the vertebrae, wrists, hips or other bones


Contact Us
Last Updated on September 13, 2005

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Virginia Commonwealth University
PO Box 980111
Richmond, VA 23298
Phone: (804) 828-8932