In honor of May being National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, I want to debunk some myths about osteoporosis, and give some pointers on how to take positive steps toward preventing it.
Some common myths about osteoporosis are:
- Osteoporosis affects only women
- Osteoporosis affects only the elderly
- Osteoporosis is an inevitable part of aging
Myth: Osteoporosis affects only women.
In fact, this serious bone disease affects both women and men. According to the National Institutes of Health, 40 million men and women in the U.S. either have osteoporosis or are in danger of getting it because they already have low bone density.
Osteoporosis can lead to chronic pain, developing a curvature in the spine known as kyphosis, disability, and even death.
Myth: Osteoporosis affects only the elderly.
Osteoporosis is most prevalent in people over age 65. However, any postmenopausal woman is at risk, and menopause can start in a woman's late 40s.
For men, age is also the leading cause of osteoporosis, but there are a host of other factors that can cause male osteoporosis in men younger than 65, such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, certain medications, and other health conditions.1
Myth: Osteoporosis is an inevitable part of aging.
Aging and osteoporosis unequivocally do not go hand-in-hand. There are many things that you can proactively do throughout your life to prevent osteoporosis from ever happening. Even if it's detected, osteoporosis can usually be managed (and potentially even reversed/reduced) with many of these same measures so it doesn't become a serious problem.
While some of us are more at risk of developing osteoporosis than others, all of us can take positive steps to keep our bones healthy and strong. Keep in mind that osteoporosis (and resulting fractures) is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions out there. You could potentially be walking around with it and not even know. It's better to assume that you are at risk for osteoporosis and proactively take steps to prevent it from ever occurring.
Here's a snapshot of what you can do to prevent osteoporosis:
- Get adequate calcium and vitamin D. The latest guidelines, by age group, are here. In essence, the recommended daily intake amounts to about 4 servings a day of calcium (milk, food, or supplements) and several servings a day of vitamin D (food, sunshine, supplements).
- Do some kind of weight-bearing exercise for 30 minutes a day. Avoid leading a sedentary lifestyle.
- Limit foods and activities believed to strip the bones or inhibit calcium absorption, such as smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and sodium.
- Tell your doctor that you want to prevent osteoporosis, and talk with him/her at every annual physical about steps you are taking to do so.
- Take osteoporosis medications as directed by your doctor, to prevent or slow the disease.
Bottom line: it's your health, so take responsibility for preventing this very preventable condition.
- "Osteoporosis in Men." The National Institutes of Health. www.niams.nih.gov.