“About half the U.S. women over age 50 have low bone mass that can lead to osteoporosis,” says McLeod Gynecologist Charles Tatum, MD. “Considering how common this bone disease remains, there are still a large number of myths floating around out there about this problem.”
1. Osteoporosis simply reflects the normal aging process. You can’t avoid it.
Truth is: Bone represents a living organism that gains mass quickly when we are young. Then, more slowly when we are older. Lack of exercise and sunshine combined with too much caffeine or certain medications, speeds deterioration.
Family history of osteoporosis raises a person’s risk. Yet, regular walks, jogging or other weight bearing exercise help strengthen bones. Quitting tobacco, using alcohol in moderation and eating a diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D lowers your risk.
2. It’s mostly about lack of calcium and estrogen.
Truth is: Lower estrogen is a causative factor, but only one of many. Calcium remains important to healthy bones in both men and women. A drop in estrogen following a woman’s menopause slows bone growth. However, the connection remains more complex. Many cultures have lower levels of calcium than we do but have lower levels of osteoporosis. Countries with the highest calcium intake record the highest rate of hip fractures.
3. I’m too old to build more bone.
Truth is: After menopause, your estrogen levels drop and you build bone slower than when you were young. But living a healthy lifestyle with exercise – such as walking, jogging or hiking – and a diet with plenty of calcium and Vitamin D has a positive impact on your bones. You’re never too old to undertake the bone strengthening efforts.
4. Osteoporosis is an old White woman disease.
Truth is: Although this problem with bone fractures more commonly affects Whites, Asians are also at high risk, while all ethnic groups can be affected. Men shouldn’t feel risk free. More men over 50 are likely to get an osteoporosis-related fracture than prostate cancer.
Young people also suffer fractures related to weak bones. This should not be a surprise when a culture focuses on being thin, where youth develop eating disorders, and young dancers and athletes avoid food in a struggle to stay thin. All these situations all can lead to skeletal weakness and fractures in younger adults.
5. It’s easy to know if you have Osteoporosis.
Truth is: Osteoporosis is called “the silent disease” because a person may not know they have it until they fracture a hip, wrist, arm or spine fracture.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
To find out if you are experiencing bone loss, ask you Gynecologist to conduct a DEXA test. This low- level radiation X-ray can reveal the status of your bones. The DEXA bone density test is especially important if you are aged 65 or older.
Besides lifestyle changes, your Gynecologist can treat you with certain medications to reduce bone loss.
Sources include: McLeod Health, World Health Organization, Center for Better Bones, National Osteoporosis Foundation