May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month

State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to Take Steps to Maintain Strong Bones for Life

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 10, 2011) – In observance of Osteoporosis Awareness Month in May, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., is encouraging all New Yorkers to learn how to maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

"The best protection against osteoporosis is prevention, and the best prevention is to eat healthy and be active," Commissioner Shah said. "As adults grow older, their bone mass can decline, increasing the risk for fractures, especially among women. A nutritious, high calcium diet combined with physical activity will help to keep bones strong for life."

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become thin and weak, making them more susceptible to fractures, especially as people age. It is estimated that approximately half of all women older than 50 years of age, and as many as one in four men, will suffer broken bones due to osteoporosis. The rate of bone loss varies among individuals and is likely influenced by both genetic factors and lifestyle choices.

Approximately 10 million Americans already have osteoporosis, and additional 34 million people are at risk of developing the disease. By 2025, experts predict that osteoporosis will be responsible for approximately 3 million bone fractures and $25.3 billion in health care costs annually.

Although some loss of bone mass is expected as people get older, osteoporosis and health problems associated with weak bones are not a normal part of the aging process. People are strongly encouraged to take steps to promote strong bones for life, including making healthy lifestyle choices such as:

  • Eating a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Choosing foods high in calcium, such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese; dried figs; salmon; canned sardines with bones; soy nuts; and cooked greens, including boy choy, dandelion, kale, mustard and turnip.
  • Getting the recommended amount of vitamin D (which often requires a supplement).
  • Engaging in exercise every day, through routine activities such as walking, climbing stairs, or dancing.
  • Not smoking or quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol use.
  • Taking safety precautions to avoid falls.
  • Discussing bone health with a health care provider.

Based on a person's age and medical history, a bone mineral density (BMD) test may be warranted. A BMD is a quick and painless type of x-ray that measures the thickness of bones and can help to determine if a person has osteoporosis.

BMD testing is generally recommended for women over the age of 65 and those younger than 65 who have reached menopause and have risk factors for osteoporosis, including stopping estrogen therapy. Men aged 50 to 69 who have risk factors for osteoporosis also should be tested. In addition, anyone over the age of 50 who suffers a bone fracture may be advised to get a BMD test. Routine BMD testing is not recommended for children, premenopausal women, or men under age 50.

Being aware of risk factors for osteoporosis and of ways to maintain healthy bones are the keys to preventing osteoporosis. The New York State Osteoporosis Prevention Education Program (NYSOPEP) provides bone health education to the the public and to health care providers. For additional information about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis, or to find a NYSOPEP center in your area, visit