GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– Osteoporosis affects almost 20 percent of women and around 5 percent of men aged 50 and over, according to the CDC.

Many people don’t know they have the condition until they break a bone.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis Health, 7 News’ Taylor Murray spoke with a rheumatologist about screening for osteoporosis and how to improve bone health.

Osteoporosis is a medical condition where bones become weak and are more likely to break.

“In general, our older patients are at risk.”

Dr. Archana Srinivas- Rheumatologist, Bon Secours St. Francis Health

Dr. Archana Srinivas, a rheumatologist, says osteoporosis is more common in women than men. Most people with the condition don’t experience any symptoms. However, there are signs to look for.

“There are signs that we can see after there might be a complication from osteoporosis. That can include a fracture. That can include height loss as well,” Srinivas said.

People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, forearm, wrist, and spine as a result of a fall. As the disease progresses, bones can weaken to the point that even coughing could cause a break.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bone mass screening for those 50 and older.

“An abnormal bone density scan is how we would usually find the diagnosis,” Srinivas said.

There are some things that can make someone more at risk for osteoporosis.

“If there’s a family history of osteoporosis or a hip fracture… certain hormonal conditions can predispose us too. Diabetes, thyroid conditions, and cancers predispose patients as well.”

Dr. Archana Srinivas- Rheumatologist, Bon Secours St. Francis Health

Dr. Srinivas says there are several treatment options available for those with osteoporosis.

“We’re lucky that there are a few different medicines that actually build bone back and simulate our growth hormone within the body,” Srinivas said.

Some medications to reverse low bone density can be taken orally. Others require an IV.

“You could come into an office and have an IV line put in your arm and the medicine would be infused through the vein… or it could be a quick injection that you might get,” Srinivas said.

Dr. Srinivas says you don’t have to wait until you have a broken bone to take steps to improve your bone health– you can start at any age. A balanced diet high in calcium and vitamin D, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking or excessive alcohol consumption can help to prevent osteoporosis.

To submit a health topic for our Ask the Expert series, click here.