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A condition which is characterized by the progressive loss of bone density and thinking of bone tissue. It occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone or when too much of the old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both.
Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation. Throughout youth, the body uses these minerals to produce bones. 

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If calcium intake is not sufficient, or if the body does not absorb enough calcium from the diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer. Calcium and phosphate may be reabsorbed back into the body from the bones, in which case the bone tissue is made weaker. Both situations can result in brittle, fragile bones that are subject to fractures. Usually, the loss occurs gradually over an extended period of time (years) and most of the time, a person will sustain a fracture before becoming aware that the disease is present.

Other causes include corticosteroid excess (Cushing's syndrome), hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, immobilization, bone malignancies, certain genetic disorders, and other miscellaneous problems such as low calcium in diet. Throughout life, dietary intake of calcium is essential for bone formation and maintenance.  Vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium, is also essential.Maintaining a healthy diet as recommended by the FDA, (which includes a sufficient amount of calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D), is very important.Regular exercise can reduce the likelihood of bone fractures. Post-menopausal women, especially those who have reduced bone density, may consider intervention with estrogen replacement therapy.  This may prevent bone loss or fracture in some people. 

There are a number of side effects, both good and bad, associated with estrogen replacement therapy and the option should be discussed thoroughly with a health care provider. It has been suggested that routine screening be done to detect early deterioration of bone mass in post menopausal women, but there is not yet a recommended guideline.  Early detection would allow early intervention and could prevent some fractures and complications associated with osteoporosis.