(Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon)

11 Myths about Osteoporosis

Do you know that much of what we’re told about bone health is actually a myth? In reality, there’s a lot you can do to build bone strength, prevent osteoporosis and reduce fracture risk. Let’s brush our knowledge…

Myth 1: You cannot have osteoporosis if you take regular calcium.

Yes, calcium is important, but it’s a myth that simply taking a high amount of calcium will guarantee bone health. To protect your bones, you need many additional essential nutrients, not just calcium. In fact, you need some of those nutrients just to get any benefits of calcium. For example, without enough vitamin D, your body only absorbs about 10-15% of the calcium from your diet, but when you take enough, the absorption rate jumps to 30-40%. Other critical nutrients for bone health are magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin C, boron, strontium etc.

Modern lifestyle prevents us from getting adequate sunlight, which is important for synthesis of vit. D in our body.

Myth 2: Osteoporosis is normal… as your bones age they should get weak.

Bone loss, even osteoporosis can affect you in your 30’s and 40’s. One of the most dangerous bone health myths is that osteoporosis is inevitable as we age. Remember, osteoporosis is not normal. It’s a disease. While there are some fixed risk factors — such as our age and gender — you can control many of the risk factors that lead to excessive bone loss, osteoporosis and fracture. The truth is, you can have strong bones at any age.

Myth 3: A diagnosis of osteoporosis means you’ll suffer a fracture.

Many people with osteoporosis may not have fracture. What’s more, many people who have normal bone density do experience fractures. Osteoporosis does increase your fracture risk.To identify your personal fracture risk, you can use this WHO fracture risk assessment tool.

Myth 4: Lack of estrogen causes osteoporosis – it’s a woman’s problem.

We hear all the time that osteoporosis is a “women’s disease” and men don’t really need to worry about it. This may stem from the long-standing belief that low estrogen levels cause bone loss. But in many countries, women maintain healthy bones for life — even though they experience the same lower estrogen levels with menopause the rest of us do. So while estrogen may play a role in osteoporosis, it’s certainly not the major cause. And unfortunately, men get osteoporosis too!

Myth 5: Osteopenia leads to osteoporosis.

A diagnosis of osteopenia means you have a state of relatively low bone mass, compared to the standard. For many women this may be only in one area, not necessarily throughout your body. And it doesn’t always mean that you’re currently losing bone. Your bones are alive. It’s never too late to build bone because it’s living tissue that constantly repairs itself.

Myth 6: You don’t need to worry about osteoporosis until menopause.

Bone loss — even osteoporosis — can be secretly affecting you in your 20s, 30s and 40s. We normally achieve peak bone mass in our 20s and then begin to lose it, some of us more quickly than others. The earliest type of bone loss takes place for women who are thin, have celiac disease, suffer from irregular menstrual cycles or poor nutrition, or use steroid drugs.

Myth 7: There’s nothing you can do once you have osteoporosis other than take a drug.

You can’t be more wrong. The natural way to bone health combines nutrition, physical activity and fall prevention. Next comes assessing and treating the underlying causes of compromised bone health. Finally, medicines help you regain your bone mass quickly. In a nutshell it’s lifestyle modification.

Myth 8: Osteoporosis is common all over the world.

Osteoporotic fracture rates vary greatly around the world. Unfortunately in India we don’t have sufficient data on osteoporosis due to the lack of awareness. It’s clear that certain lifestyle factors play major roles in bone loss, including:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lack of exercise
  • High caffeine intake
  • Poor nutrition
  • Use of certain medicines (e.g. steroids, anti-epliptics)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Alcohol

Myth 9: Osteoporosis isn’t linked to other health issues.

More and more, research appears to indicate that there’s a link between the existence of osteoporosis and other diseases. When you build your bones, you’re likely building a healthier, stronger body and improving metabolic fitness, muscle strength, blood pressure regulation and cardiovascular health — all at the same time. Conversely people with known medical conditions are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

Myth 10: There aren’t any signs or symptoms of bone loss.

While many people don’t realize they have a bone issue until they fracture, there are sometimes signs and symptoms of bone loss. These include receding gums; decreased grip strength; weak and brittle fingernails; cramps, muscle aches and bone pain; height loss and low overall fitness. These are often late and variable and you should not solely rely on them.

By knowing these facts about bone loss, osteoporosis and fracture, you can take the steps to have better bones now and for life.

Myth 11: Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis are same things.

While Osteoporosis is loss in bone density, osteoarthritis is degeneration of joints. They are completely different diseases and should not be confused together.

Who Should Get Screened for Bone Loss

In general, people who should be screened for osteoporosis include:

  • Women over age 50
  • Women who have more than one risk factor (for example: a family history of osteoporosis, post menopause, low body weight etc.)
  • Post-menopausal women who have had a fracture

Since bone loss begins without any noticeable symptoms, screening should ideally occur before you have reason to worry.

You can use this WHO international Fracture Risk Assessment tool to find out your true risk.

You can also visit me in my clinic. See my clinic schedule.