Osteoporosis itself is usually not fatal. However, fractures that may occur can dramatically decrease a person’s quality of life and increase the risk of complications that may ultimately result in death.
Osteoporosis is when bones become weak, fragile, and more at risk of fractures. The loss of bone mineral density can happen due to the aging process and changes in hormone levels after menopause. Several medications and other medical conditions may also cause loss of bone density.
This article explores how osteoporosis affects life expectancy, the most common cause of death in osteoporosis, how long a person can live with osteoporosis, and more.
People often refer to osteoporosis as the
According to a 2022 article, only
The risk of death is substantially higher during the first year following a hip fracture.
Hip fractures, in particular, are associated with
Statistics show that
The outlook for individuals with osteoporosis varies greatly. As such, it is difficult to give a specific timespan. How long a person lives with osteoporosis depends on factors such as:
- age at diagnosis
- severity of the condition
- overall health status
- presence of other medical conditions
- compliance to treatment and supportive measures
A doctor can provide more information about a person’s outlook based on their individual circumstances.
With appropriate medical management, lifestyle modifications, and preventive measures, an individual may go on to lead an active and fulfilling life.
People in the medical field do not use the term “end stage osteoporosis.” Osteoporosis is a chronic condition characterized by progressive loss of bone density. However, there is no specific stage called “end stage.”
Instead, medical experts assess the severity of osteoporosis by measuring bone density and presenting the results as either a Z-score or T-score.
People who have not gone through menopause or are under the age of 50 years get a Z-score. A Z-score of
People who are in postmenopause or over the age of 50 years get a T-score. A T-score of 1 or greater indicates healthy bones. A T-score of -1 to -2.5 may indicate osteopenia, a less severe form of osteoporosis. A T-score of -2.5 or lower may signify osteoporosis.
The risk of bone fractures increases with each drop in T-score.
- chest infection
- urinary tract infection
- wound infection
- blood clots
- heart attack
- kidney injury
- pressure wounds
According to older research, loss of mobility and independent function is profound, with up to 40% of people being unable to walk independently and 60% of people needing assistance 1 year after the hip fracture. Due to this, 33% of people are totally dependent on others or living in a nursing home within 1 year of breaking their hip.
Fractures of the vertebra can also lead to severe complications, such as:
- back pain
- loss of height
- deformed spine
- decreased physical activity
- reduced lung function
While aging is inevitable, and genetics are unalterable, there are steps a person can take to strengthen their bones and decrease the risk of osteoporosis.
A doctor can help determine risk levels and advise on specific steps to improve bone health.
- Nutrition: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in vitamin D and calcium.
- Lifestyle: Avoid smoking and limit alcohol, and get regular check-ups with a doctor.
- Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity that includes strength training, resistance training, and exercises that improve balance. Learn more about exercise for osteoporosis.
- Manage other medical conditions: Manage other conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid conditions. People in postmenopause may wish to discuss estrogen replacement therapy with their doctor.
- Fall prevention: Address areas of fall risk in the home and take steps to improve them. Wear proper footwear and use an assistive device if needed.
Along with the above preventive steps, various medications are available to help treat the condition. These include:
- selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs)
- parathyroid hormone
- menopausal hormone therapy
A person’s doctor can advise on which medications they recommend for osteoporosis and what taking them involves.
It is best for a person to discuss their risk of osteoporosis with their doctor, particularly if any of the risk factors for osteoporosis apply. Examples of risk factors include:
- family history of osteoporosis
- parental history of hip fracture
- early menopause
- taking medications that may weaken bones, such as steroids
- overactive thyroid gland
- rheumatoid arthritis
The doctor can make a plan for promoting optimal bone health.
People who have concerns about their bone health should also consider contacting their doctor. These concerns could include:
- frequent fractures
- loss of height
- noticeable change in posture
Osteoporosis occurs when there is a decrease in bone density. This increases the risk of fractures.
While osteoporosis itself is not fatal, it can lead to serious complications that may affect overall health and well-being.
Fractures, especially hip fractures, are linked with increased mortality rates due to complications that arise after experiencing a fracture.
Understanding the potential severity of osteoporosis and seeking medical attention promptly is vital for preserving bone health and minimizing adverse outcomes.