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One in every 4 middle-aged adults has weak bones

Osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones, is a common health concern for older women.

But according to a recent study, as many as one in every four middle-aged adults have weakened bones.

The study looked at 173 men and women between the ages of 35-50.

Researchers found 25 percent of the people studied already had osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis, in which bones begin to weaken.

Dr. Abby Abelson, of Cleveland Clinic, did not take part in the study but said many people don't realize bone loss begins during middle age.

"We know that it doesn't suddenly come at 50," she said. "The precursors for low bone density and osteoporosis come at a much younger age. We actually know that we're building bone from our childhood up through the ages of 20-25."

Abelson said people who have osteoporosis may not know it until they break a bone since they are susceptible to fractures in any bone in their body, especially the hips and spine. These fractures are not only painful, but they can create prolonged disability.

Many people even lose their independence and move into assisted living care because of these types of fractures.

Abelson said low calcium intake, low exercise, and certain medications can contribute to low bone density in middle-aged people.

She believes this study shows us the importance of tending to these modifiable risk factors while we're still young.

"A modifiable risk factor is something that you can take control over like your dairy intake, like your exercise, like not smoking, not drinking alcohol to excess, and making sure that you maintain an active lifestyle," Abelson said. 

Even though men don't always pay attention to their bone health, Abelson said they can get osteoporosis too. 

She recommends everyone have a conversation with their primary care doctor about their bone health well before age 50.

"This study really looks at the people between the ages of 35-50, and it's a really important time, because at this age, people have already built their peak bone density," Abelson said. "They're at a point where they need to maintain that peak bone density."

Complete results of the study can be found in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.