Spotlight on Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis Awareness Month

May 16, 2023

In New York State alone, at least 3 million women and men (age 50 and over) either have osteoporosis or are at significant risk of developing the disease. During May’s Osteoporosis Month, we spoke with our Osteoporosis Treatment Program’s Payal Sahni, DPT, coordinator of the New York State Osteoporosis Prevention and Education Program headquartered at HHH, to learn more about osteoporosis, its risk factors, and how to prevent and treat the disease.


What is osteoporosis?
Payal Sahni: Osteoporosis is a ‘silent’ disease that causes bones to become thin, weak, and at risk for fractures. Approximately 44 million women and men in the United States have either osteoporosis or low bone mass. You cannot feel or see your bones getting thinner. Many people do not even know that they have osteoporosis until a bone breaks. The most common bones to break because of osteoporosis are in the spine, wrist, or hip.

Picture of normal bone, showing thick bone tissue, in comparison to picture of osteoporotic bone, showing thin and brittle bone tissue

What causes osteoporosis?
PS: Bone is a living and growing tissue. Throughout life, bone is constantly being renewed in a process called remodeling. The remodeling process is complex but includes two main types of cells, osteoclasts and osteoblasts.

Osteoclasts are bone-clearing cells that remove old bone tissue and make space for new bone cells. The osteoblasts are the building cells that form bone.

  • Bone mass is maintained when bone formation equals bone removal.
  • Bone loss occurs when more bone is removed than formed.

Think of your bones as a bank account in which you “deposit” and “withdraw” calcium throughout life. Calcium is a mineral that makes bone dense (thick) and strong. During childhood, the teen years, and early adulthood you build your bone bank. The skeleton grows and bones become larger, denser, and stronger especially when you practice bone healthy actions.

Who can get osteoporosis?
PS: It is important for you to identify your personal risks for osteoporosis and discuss them with your health care provider. Knowing your risk factors is the first step in taking an active role in the prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. Listed below are some of the risk factors for osteoporosis. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk for osteoporosis.

  • Women older than 65 or a men older than 70
  • Caucasian or Asian populations
  • Post-menopausal women
  • A close relative has osteoporosis or has broken a bone
  • Fracture sustained after age 50
  • Loss of more than 1-1/2 inches of height with or without postural changes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of calcium in diet
  • Smoking
  • Consuming more than two drinks of alcohol several times a week
  • Long term use of steroid medications

Can osteoporosis be prevented? How?
PS: The earlier prevention measures are taken, the more impact they will have on reducing your risk of osteoporosis. Bone healthy actions should begin in childhood and continue throughout your lifetime. However, it is never too late to take action to promote healthy bones. Bone healthy actions are the key to enable you to build strong bones in youth and maintain bone mass in adulthood.

Bone Healthy Actions to Maintain Strong Bones in Adulthood:

  • Eat a variety of healthy (nutrient-rich) foods.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get the calcium you need daily.
  • Get the recommended amount of vitamin D.
  • Perform strengthening, flexibility, balance, and stamina building exercises.
  • Limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking.
  • Take action to prevent falls.

What treatments are available for people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis?
PS: The steps

to promote strong bones are necessary for all individuals but not enough for everyone. Some individuals may also need to take medications to reduce bone loss and/or prevent fractures. To determine your need for osteoporosis medication, your healthcare provider will review your medical history and assess your risk factors for bone loss and fractures. You can visit for a complete list of osteoporosis medications that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is important to discuss all of the potential benefits and risks of taking any osteoporosis medication with your healthcare provider.

Helen Hayes Hospital is a designated New York State Osteoporosis Education Resource center. The hospital also provides evidence based physical therapy and nutrition services to patients with osteoporosis. To enquire about our ongoing support and education programs, monthly support group meetings, and the Strong Bones Wellness program, call NYSOPEP at 845-786-4771 or email You can also visit to learn in detail about bone-healthy actions.


Thank you to Payal and our osteoporosis rehabilitation team for providing invaluable disease-specific services and educational opportunities for our patients with osteoporosis. Our community is grateful for your unparalleled expertise!