Many people are familiar with the concept of keeping their bones healthy and strong, but how many of us really know what our own personal risk factors are for developing osteoporosis?
The best time to prevent or slow bone loss is now. Prevention is always the best medicine when it comes to your bones! So whether you are young or old, male or female, don’t ignore your best support system–your skeleton.
Common Myths about Osteoporosis
MYTH #1: Osteoporosis is an inevitable part of aging.
Osteoporosis, for the most part, is preventable. Prevention of osteoporosis should begin in early childhood and continue throughout the stages of life. Continuing or starting preventative measures even after you have started to suffer from bone loss is still helpful to minimize future damage.
MYTH #2: Only older women get osteoporosis.
Women and men can develop osteoporosis at any age, especially if they have a chronic condition such as asthma or arthritis that requires treatment with medications such as glucocorticoids (e.g. prednisone) that can lead to bone loss. Twenty percent of those affected by osteoporosis are men.
MYTH #3: Osteoporosis is not very common.
Osteoporosis and low bone mass affect 44 million women and men aged 50 and older in the United States. The 10 million people with osteoporosis and 34 million with low bone mass represent 55 percent of the people aged 50 and older. In the U.S. alone, osteoporosis causes 1.5 million fractures annually. A woman’s risk of hip fracture is equivalent to her combined risk of developing breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
MYTH #4: Osteoporosis isn’t a serious or deadly condition.
The consequences of osteoporosis are devastating and painful. Hip fractures are more serious than people realize: approximately 20 percent of hip fracture patients will die in the year after fracture, usually from complications such as pneumonia or blood clots in the lung, which are related to the fracture or to the surgery to repair the fracture. More than half of those who survive a hip fracture will not be able to walk or move about easily, and a quarter will need long-term nursing home care. Frail, elderly women and men who have suffered multiple fractures in the upper spine may develop stooped posture, or “kyphosis”. They often have chronic lower back and side pain and difficulty walking. In extreme cases, people have trouble breathing and eating.
MYTH #5: If I had osteoporosis, I would know it.
No, not usually. Osteoporosis is often called “the silent disease” because it progresses slowly over time, without symptoms, until a fracture occurs. For example, many people continue to assume height loss is a normal part of aging. However, it may be due to a collapse in the bones of the spine weakened by osteoporosis. Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others.
Factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis include being female, having a personal history of fracture as an adult, current smoking, current low bone mass, being thin and/or having a small frame, advanced age, or a family history of osteoporosis. Many people are not having appropriate testing to determine if they have osteoporosis before, or even after they fracture.
MYTH #6: Once I have osteoporosis, there is nothing I can do about it.
Even if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s not too late to take steps to protect your bone health. Dietary changes, vitamins, exercise, and other strategies can all help to not only stop the continued destruction of bone, but even rebuild some of what has been lost.
Contact us for more information on what you can do to keep your bones healthy. Our naturopathic doctors can go over your risk factors, testing options, and naturopathic strategies to keep your bones strong and healthy for years to come.
Adapted from the National Osteoporosis Foundation