Osteoporosis can pose a special threat to women because as we approach menopause our body produces less estrogen, the hormone that protects against bone loss. "Shrinking" in height, slight curving of the back, back pain or tenderness are symptoms of osteoporosis. And, as the spinal bones weaken, they slowly collapse under the weight of the upper body, causing the spine to curve - often referred to as "dowager's hump."

Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because it doesn't produce symptoms until a fracture occurs. The bones most likely to break are the hip, spine and forearm. In fact, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 8 men are at risk for fracture or have at least one spinal fracture and don't know it. Spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis are most often painless, greatly increasing the risk for future fractures. A woman's risk of hip fracture alone equals her combined risk of developing breast, uterine or ovarian cancer.

Your chances of developing osteoporosis are greater if you are female and if you answer "yes" to any of the following:

Are you?
  • light skinned
  • thin or small framed
  • approaching or past menopause
  • milk intolerant or have a low calcium intake
  • smoker
  • excessive alcohol drinker
  • taking thyroid medication or steroid-based drugs for asthma, arthritis or cancer

Do you have?
  • a family history of osteoporosis
  • chronic intestinal disorders
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • eating disorders