Written by: Patricia Spergl, Nurse Practitioner at Osteoporosis Prevention Center
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes a person’s bones to become weak and more likely to break. It is a “silent disease” that often does not produce symptoms until a fracture occurs. A fracture can result from a minor fall or in serious cases, from a simple action such as a sneeze or a cough.
In my practice, I have heard many misconceptions regarding osteoporosis. Here are just a few of the myths of osteoporosis:
Myth 1: Osteoporosis is a normal aging condition.
Fact: We lose some bone density as we age. However, it is not true that every older person develops osteoporosis.
Myth 2: Osteoporosis is a disease that only affects older Caucasian women.
Fact: While osteoporosis is more common in women due to lighter bones and sharp decreases in estrogen levels after menopause, it can affect people of all ages, ethnicities and either sex. In fact, one out of five people with the disease are men, which is equivalent to 2 million American men. Additionally, young people can be affected due to certain medical conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis or malabsorption, or if taking certain medications that could lead to bone loss, like glucocorticoids.
Myth 3: If you drink milk and exercise, you are not at risk for developing osteoporosis.
Fact: All of us need to take steps throughout our lives in order to build and maintain strong bones, which include getting enough calcium and vitamin D and exercising regularly. However, there are certain factors that put people at increased risk for developing osteoporosis. These include:
- Having a family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
- Personal history of fracture as an adult
- Being small and thin
- Smoking or drinking too much alcohol
- Certain medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus), malabsorption (celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease), endocrine disorders (diabetes mellitus, hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism), multiple myeloma, eating disorders, or female athlete triad
- Taking certain medications including some antiseizure medications, aromatase inhibitors, cancer drugs, glucocorticoids, lithium, methotrexate, proton pump inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, some diabetes medications, some infertility medications and thyroid hormone in excess
Myth 4: Breaking a bone is not serious.
Fact: Every year approximately 2 million fractures occur due to osteoporosis. In fact, one in two women and one in four men older than 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Fractures can affect physical, mental and emotional states and can also result in death. Approximately 24% of people experiencing a hip fracture die within the year following their hip fracture.
You are never too young or too old to take steps for healthy bones. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to build and maintain strong bones and tests you may need to see if you are at risk for osteoporosis.