BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) – Osteoporosis is a painful, debilitating bone disease and it can just keep getting worse.

“It’s really often referred to as the silent disease, or the silent killer. The reason for that is it’s something that happens over life,” said Dr. Daniel Matthews with Alabama Orthopedic Sports Medicine in Daphne.

More than 11 million people in the United States are living with osteoporosis, he says.

“Osteoporosis is decreased mineralization of the bone, so the bones become brittle. They lose their structural mass,” Dr. Matthews explained.

He tells us the earlier you act to fight it, the better.

“You really want to load that bone mass early in life because if you start losing it later in life it gets to where we call a fracture threshold. We want to keep the bone mass up as long as we can,” Dr. Matthews continued.

Josh Fandrich believes that. He owns the OsteoStrong franchise in Fairhope. He says what looks like a gym is really a place geared to fight osteoporosis. The location has 300 members and counting.

“We’re focusing primarily on skeletal strength conditioning, which is the bone density, the muscles, ligaments and tendons,” said Fandrich.

Members work out in 10-minute sessions in order to keep their skeletal system strong. You can dress how you like and in most cases you won’t even break a sweat, Fandrich says.

“We wanted to ensure as we age our bone density, which would cause more breakages if you fell more or whatever, we wanted to make sure we took every method we could to increase that strength in our structure or our bone system,” a member told us.

Folks in the program also work to improve posture and balance. Experts say it’s natural, adults are constantly losing bone density. Unchecked, that breakdown can lead to a lot of problems.

Osteoporosis affects people of all ages and gender, but it’s mainly females who are most vulnerable. Female athletes are some of Dr. Matthews biggest challenges.

“For our females they get about 90% of their bone mass really before the age of 19. It accounts for, if you look economically, about $10 billion is the cost to our society from osteoporosis treatments from injuries and fractures and things like that. It’s a huge problem,” he said.

Experts say Vitamin D deficiencies cause a lot of the issues. Dr. Matthews says in many cases an injection can be used to help build back some of the bone, but at that point it’s not always a permanent fix. And, what you eat matters, too.

“Exercise and diet is really important early in life. Doctor Mom, I’ve learned through 30 years of practice, she was always right. Eating your vegetables and exercising and drinking your milk is extremely important in helping prevent osteoporosis later in life,” Dr. Matthews said.

That’s why he encourages everyone, especially women, to act now, instead of react later in life.