Osteoporosis: Myths vs. Facts

Do you think that osteoporosis affects only women and older people? Do you believe you won't experience bone loss if you consume calcium every day? When it comes to osteoporosis, there are many misconceptions that may stand in the way of both prevention and treatment. Read on to get the real facts behind this degenerative bone disease.

Myth #1: Only women get osteoporosis.

Although 80 percent of osteoporosis sufferers are women, men can develop osteoporosis, too. In the United States, almost 2 million men are estimated to have osteoporosis and nearly 3 million more are at risk.

Myth #2: Only older people need to worry about osteoporosis.

There are no symptoms for osteoporosis in its early stages; in fact, many people do not realize they have the disease until much later. For this reason, osteoporosis has earned its nickname as "the silent disease," and it's especially important to take precautionary measures as early as possible. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), getting the recommended daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol, engaging in regular exercise, talking to your health-care provider about bone health, having a bone density test, and taking medication when appropriate are important ways to help prevent osteoporosis.

Myth #3: I consume calcium every day, so I'm all set.

Calcium intake is a great start, but it is not the only means for preventing osteoporosis. Regular exercise and abstinence from smoking are other ways to improve bone density. Vitamin D consumption is another essential component of bone strength.

Myth #4: When I find out I have osteoporosis, I'll deal with it.

People with osteoporosis live without symptoms for many years. Many times, it takes a fracture to uncover osteoporosis, which means your bones literally have to reach a breaking point. According to the NOF, about 85 to 90 percent of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys. This means that strengthening your bones in childhood and adolescence can reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis later in life.

Myth #5: Osteoporosis may break my bones, but it can't kill me.

The fractures caused by osteoporosis should not be underestimated. In fact, some people never fully recover. The NOF estimates that 24 percent of hip fracture patients aged 50 and over die in the year following their fracture and 20 percent of those who were mobile before their hip fracture require long-term care afterward.

Myth #6: It's too late to do anything about osteoporosis once it has been diagnosed.

While taking preventative action is vital and there is no permanent cure for osteoporosis, it can be treated. There are several medications that can work in conjunction with proper diet and exercise to help strengthen and even increase bone density. Talk to your health-care professional about which treatment options are best for you.