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.

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Osteoporosis does not directly affect life expectancy. However, it increases the risk of fractures, which may directly affect overall health and mortality.

People often refer to osteoporosis as the “silent” disease, as most people are unaware that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. Once a fracture occurs, this can significantly affect physical and mental health.

According to a 2022 article, only 33% of older adults assigned female at birth who experience a hip fracture can regain their independence.

The risk of death is substantially higher during the first year following a hip fracture.

Learn about fractures.

Hip fractures, in particular, are associated with high mortality rates.

Statistics show that up to 22% of people die within the first year of experiencing a hip fracture, typically as a result of preexisting medical conditions. The risk of mortality persists for at least 5 years following a hip fracture.

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 -2.0 or less may indicate osteoporosis.

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.

Learn more about Z-scores.

Many complications can occur due to hip repair surgery, which may include:

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
  • immobility
  • 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. General guidelines include the following:

  • 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:

  • bisphosphonates
  • denosumab
  • selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs)
  • calcitonin
  • 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.