Osteoporosis can increase the risk of bone fractures and other injuries. People can improve their quality of life by exercising, eating well, taking certain supplements, and seeking mental health support.

Osteoporosis means that a person has lower bone mineral density than is considered typical for their age. It is not a terminal or fatal illness, and with early treatment, the outlook is positive.

Lifestyle changes, attention to safety, and the right medications can help someone living with osteoporosis remain safe and healthy. People living with osteoporosis should work with a healthcare professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, adopt healthy lifestyle changes, and reduce their fracture risk.

Read on to learn more about how osteoporosis affects daily life and tips for staying healthy.

A woman standing in front of a tree.Share on Pinterest
Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

Most people with osteoporosis do not have any symptoms, especially early in the condition’s early stages. This makes diagnosis challenging.

The most significant way that osteoporosis can affect daily life is by increasing a person’s risk of bone fractures.

Fractures can be very painful, and some can cause long-term disability. For example, vertebral fractures increase the risk of breathing difficulties and pneumonia.

Avoiding fractures may also affect a person’s daily life.

They may feel reluctant to do certain exercises or may activities that increase the risk of a fracture. This might include avoiding certain activities, not living in a home with stairs, or having anxiety about falling in the shower.

In a 2017 study of women newly diagnosed with osteoporosis, researchers found that concerns about taking and not taking medication, anxiety about chronic pain, and making lifestyle changes to reduce fracture risk were common challenges.

Osteoporosis is not a terminal illness, and people can live long and healthy lives with the right treatment.

An older 2015 study emphasizes that this is an important treatment consideration since people may live many years with their condition. Drawing on data from 58,637 patients, researchers found a slight increase in the risk of dying the first year following diagnosis. They also had a slightly higher-than-average risk in subsequent years.

According to the study, a 50-year-old man starting osteoporosis treatment had an estimated life expectancy of 18.2 years. For 50-year-old women, the figure was 26.4 years.

Learn more about osteoporosis and life expectancy.

Osteoporosis medications can slow bone loss, reducing the risk of a fracture. People can ask their doctor about what medications will work best for them.

Some additional changes that may improve quality of life include:

  • quitting smoking, since smoking can worsen osteoporosis
  • exercising regularly (Weight-bearing exercises can strengthen muscles and bones and improve coordination, lowering the risk of a fall.)
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes sources of calcium and vitamin D
  • asking a doctor about supplementing with calcium or vitamin D
  • reducing alcohol consumption
  • joining an exercise group or a gym, which may offer weight-bearing physical activity in a supportive environment where a person feels less anxious about falling
  • seeking emotional support from a therapist, loved ones, or a support group

Falls pose a serious risk to people with osteoporosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 3 million older people visited emergency rooms in 2020 because of falls.

Some strategies to reduce the risk of falling include:

  • avoiding high risk activities like climbing or running up and down stairs
  • securing rugs with anti-slip surfaces to reduce the risk of tripping on them
  • securing furniture to the wall
  • installing grab bars in baths and showers
  • putting secure railings next to steps and stairs
  • avoiding distraction when climbing steps or carrying heavy objects
  • ensuring a person can access a phone or emergency help (a call button or bracelet may be appropriate for some people

People may find that talking with other people living with osteoporosis provides additional help, expertise, and reassurance.

The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation offers online and in-person support groups, as well as numerous resources and treatment guides. Similarly, American Bone Health provides patient resources and a wide range of events.

Some hospitals, clinics, and churches also offer support groups. Consider searching “osteoporosis support group” + “location” for relevant local details.

Some questions to ask a doctor include:

  • Should I take supplements, and at what doses?
  • What types of exercise are safe for me?
  • Are there activities I should avoid?
  • Do I need to take medication? Could it interact with my other medications?
  • What can I do to reduce my risk of a fracture?
  • Are there any warning signs of worsening bone health I should look for?

Osteoporosis can make people concerned about their long-term health, but people should know that it does not have to undermine their quality of life. Early treatment can ensure a positive outlook.

A person may need to make lifestyle changes both to improve bone health and to reduce the risk of falling.

They can work with a doctor to explore treatment options and protect their bone health.