Senior Health: Osteoporosis

What Is Osteoporosis? [1][2]

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones, which literally means porous bone, where the density of bones is decreased to make bones weak and more likely to break. The inside of a normal bone looks like a honeycomb. If a person has osteoporosis, the spaces and holes inside this honeycomb become bigger, meaning the loss of bone strength and density.


In 2015 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that one-quarter of all American women aged 65 or older has osteoporosis and about 6 percent of men in this age group also suffer from the condition. Almost half (48 percent) of seniors had osteopenia (low bone mass), including 52 percent of women and 44 percent of men.


Understand a Bone Density Test [3]

A bone mineral density (BMD) test is called a DXA or DEXA scan. It uses X-rays to measure the amount of mineral in the bones of the hip, spine, low back, and sometimes other bones. It is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis. If any of the following conditions apply to you, consider talking to your doctor and ask if you should have a bone density test.

bone density

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that you have a bone density test if:

  • you are a woman age 65 or older
  • you are a man age 70 or older
  • you break a bone after age 50
  • you are a woman of menopausal age with risk factors
  • you are a postmenopausal woman under age 65 with risk factors
  • you are a man age 50-69 with risk factors

A bone density test may also be necessary if you have any of the following:

  • an X-ray of your spine showing a break or bone loss in your spine
  • back pain with a possible break in your spine
  • height loss of ½ inch or more within one year
  • total height loss of 1½ inches from your original height

Bone Health

What Your T-score Means. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • A T-score of -1.0 or above is normal bone density.
  • A T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 means you have low bone density (osteopenia) but not osteoporosis.
  • A T-score of -2.5 or below is a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Suggested Lifestyle Changes for Osteoporosis Treatment [4]

  • Exercise. Weight-bearing physical activity and exercises can strengthen bones and decrease the chance of a fracture. Try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Good nutrition. Eat a healthy diet and make sure you get enough calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. Potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta carotene (found in fruits and vegetables) have been associated with higher total bone mass.
  • Decrease your sodium intake. Avoid salty processed foods and fast food. Don’t salt your food before tasting it.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes may speed up bone loss.
  • Limit caffeine intake.
  • Avoid alcohol or drink only in moderation.

Supplements for Osteoporosis Treatment [4]

  • A calcium/magnesium supplement. For seniors, calcium citrate is better because of its absorption. Magnesium is also an important mineral in the bone matrix. Note: foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium.
  • Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of dietary calcium, mineralization, and the maintenance of healthy and strong bone
  • Vitamin K supplement. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is most well-known for blood clotting. However, vitamin K is also helps activate certain proteins that are involved in the structuring of bone mass to building strong bones.

Don’t Let Osteoporosis Sneak up on You [5]

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent” disease because bone loss often presents itself without any symptoms at all and you cannot feel your bones getting weaker.

“Osteoporosis isn’t just your grandmother’s disease. We all need to take better care of our bones,” US Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, MD, PhD said. “With healthy nutrition, physical activity every day, and regular medical checkups and screenings, Americans of all ages can have strong bones and live longer, healthier lives.”

To learn more, please contact a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist on the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website by clicking Find a RD.

Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,

Vanessa Yu


  1. National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). “What is osteoporosis?” (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Mundell, E. J. (Aug. 13, 2015). “1 in 4 senior women in U.S. has osteoporosis: CDC.” WebMD News from HealthDay. Retrieved from
  3. National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). “Having a bone density test.” (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. Weil, A. (n.d.). “Osteoporosis treatment.” Retrieved from
  5. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US). (2004). “Bone health and osteoporosis: a report of the surgeon general.” Retrieved from
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