Myth: Osteoporosis isn’t a serious disease; it’s an inevitable part of aging
While some bone loss does occur as people age, many individuals lose a lot of bone mass very quickly within a few years. This may result in osteoporosis, where bones become fragile and can easily break. The consequences of the disease can be severe, including pain, disability, loss of independence and even death. Simple daily activities, such as vacuuming, putting out the garbage or lifting a child, can result in a broken bone. Spinal fractures cause pain, loss of height, reduced mobility and a stooped posture. Hip fractures can result in death or disability and nursing home care.
Myth: Osteoporosis is a woman’s disease
Although it is more common in women, osteoporosis is a serious health issue for men as well. At least one in eight men over 50 suffers from osteoporosis. According to a Canadian study of healthy men and women, the number of spine fractures is similar in men and women over the age of 50. As with women, the cause of vertebral fractures appears to be osteoporosis. Elderly men account for almost 30 percent of hip-fracture cases. Men are also more likely to die after a hip fracture than women. Fractures in both men and women often lead to significant physical and emotional problems.
Myth: I’m young; I’m not at risk for osteoporosis
Osteoporosis has been referred to as a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences. During childhood and adolescence, we have the opportunity to build bone that will last us the rest of our lives; bone building actually peaks at age 16 for women and age 20 for young men. Building strong, dense bones when young may be one of the best ways to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures later in life.
Myth: I eat all the right things and exercise regularly—I’m not at risk
Although a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and regular physical activity are critical strategies for reducing your risk for osteoporosis, there are other significant factors to consider. These include:
• Family history of osteoporotic fracture (especially if your mother had a hip fracture)
• Long-term (more than 3 months continuously) use of glucocorticoid therapy such as prednisone, often used to treat such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and obstructive pulmonary disease
• Medical conditions (such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease) that inhibit absorption of nutrients
• Hypogonadism (low testosterone in men, loss of menstrual periods in younger women)
• Early menopause (before age 45)
• Excess caffeine, excess alcohol and smoking
Myth: It’s too late for me to do anything to prevent osteoporosis
It is never too late to take steps to slow or stop further bone loss. Lifestyle changes such as increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake if these have been inadequate, becoming more physically active, cutting back on the salt you eat, quitting smoking or taking medications for osteoporosis if appropriate and as prescribed by a doctor can all help to maintain and even increase bone density well into your senior years.
Web exclusive November 2009, content courtesy Osteoporosis Canada