Why the Bones Break

A single gene seems to heighten the risk of developing osteoporosis, perhaps by hampering vitamin D uptake

Among emblems of old age, a woman's curved spine is one of the most powerful and haunting, at once both metaphor and augury. It conjures up the crush of life's passage. More terrible, it often heralds life's end. For the humped back is often the most visible sign of osteoporosis, a progressive disease that leaves bones thin and brittle. Even so simple a motion as walking or sitting can collapse vertebrae and fracture wrists and hips. Those who suffer such breaks rarely recover their mobility. Many wind up in nursing homes. One- quarter die within six months of a hip fracture.

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