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To explain the causes of osteoporosis, it helps to start with a brief description of bones, and their associated processes.

The inside of a bone consists of a strong mesh of protein and mineral, particularly calcium.

This mesh is living tissue that is constantly being renewed by a process called bone turnover.

Old, worn out bone is broken down and absorbed by the body. At the same time, new bone tissue is created from fresh protein and minerals.

In children and young adults, more new bone is created than is broken down, making bones bigger and more dense.

The bones are at their strongest when the peak bone mass is reached, and this usually occurs in a person's mid-twenties.

Peak bone mass is then maintained for about ten years, with roughly equal amounts of bone creation and breakdown.

After the age of about 35, bone loss begins to overtake creation as part of the normal aging process.

With osteoporosis, the process happens much more quickly, leading to premature bone weakness.

As well as bones, such as the wrist or hip, breaking more easily than usual, osteoporosis can result in small fractures of the bones in the spine.

This can cause a curved back and a loss of height.

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