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The senior years
ovarian cancer / osteoporosis / incontinence

The bones of an 89-year-old woman with osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become extremely porous.

Bone may be the hardest, most durable substance in the body, but it’s not indestructible. There’s a thief at large – the disease osteoporosis– slowly and silently draining bones away until they weaken or snap.

As life expectancy continues to climb, both women and men face the increased possibility of pain and disability caused by the insidious disease, which causes bone to become porous and fragile, leading to an increased risk of fractures.

But women are much more likely to develop this condition during the time of menopause and the first years beyond as they lose more and more of the protective effect of natural estrogen, while men tend to lose more slowly, catching up with women by age 65 or 70.

“We’re living to be 10 years older than our parents and grandparents,” says Gregory Mundy, M.D., the first John A. Oates Chair in Translational Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Center in Bone Biology. “Many of us are going to live well into our 80s and 90s, and some of us longer.” As a result, he explains, many otherwise healthy adults face the very real possibility of being “crippled by their bones,” a fate that Mundy and other researchers hope to avert by developing a better understanding of osteoporosis and new methods to prevent and treat it.  continued>>

WRITTEN BY ELIZABETH OLDER
ILLUSTRATION BY GETTY IMAGES
 
 

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