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6 myths about osteoporosis risk

Think you know all about osteoporosis? There’s a chance that some of the things you think you know about osteoporosis risk factors may be wrong. Osteoporosis is a complicated disease, and information changes, so it's easy to get confused.

Here are a few common myths about osteoporosis risk factors.

Myth: Only women need to worry about osteoporosis.

It's true that osteoporosis affects women far more than it does men. About 80% of those with osteoporosis patients are women. However that means that men account for 20% of cases and a growing number are being treated for osteopenia, the decline in bone mass that can progress to osteoporosis if not properly treated. Men actually have a greater risk of developing a fracture related to osteoporosis than of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and they're nearly twice as likely as women to die in the year following a fracture.

In older men and women of the same age, women have about 90% of the spine fractures, but men have about one-third of the hip fractures.

Myth: If you are on an osteoporosis medication, you don't need to worry about getting enough calcium and vitamin D.

You may assume that the medication you're taking to treat your osteoporosis has calcium and vitamin D in it as well, but that's not necessarily the case. The drugs can help prevent bone loss, but they don't give you the raw materials, calcium and phosphorus, that make up bone minerals. Eat a diet rich in calcium, even if you are taking medication, and ask your doctor whether or not you should take calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Myth: It doesn't matter if you get calcium and vitamin D from your diet or from supplements.

It's true that you should get calcium and vitamin D any way you can, and if supplements are the only way you can get them, then it's better to take supplements than miss out on these essential nutrients entirely.

However, study after study has shown that people aren't very good at taking supplements regularly, but eating is something you do every day, so it's easier to make a habit of dairy consumption – milk, yoghurt, and cheese are all good. You can also get vitamin D and calcium from many fortified foods such as cereals, orange juice, and soya milk.

Foods give you more of the nutrients you need than supplements. There are many dietary sources such as dairy products that contain many nutrients necessary for bone health. Bone is made of protein as well as minerals, with calcium being a principal one. Many dietary sources contain protein, phosphorus, and many other nutrients necessary for total body health.

Myth: If you have osteoporosis, it's too late to do anything about it.

After being diagnosed with osteoporosis, some people think they should just go home and give up.

However, doctors can do a lot to slow the disease and lower the risk of fracture. Getting a diagnosis is a good thing compared with having the disorder and not knowing it, because now you can take steps.

There is a variety of osteoporosis medication available. Most cannot build new bone but they slow the rate of bone loss. These medications include bisphosphonates, strontium ranelate, selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), and calcitonin. Your doctor can help you decide which medication is right for you, but it's important to know that these treatments can reduce your risk of spinal fractures by up to 65%, and your risk of fractures elsewhere in the body by up to 53%.

People with osteoporosis don't have to sit at home and stare out the window. Regular weight-bearing exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of fracture, because it strengthens the bones and can help you to stay strong, agile, and avoid falls. Talk with your doctor about exercise that you can safely do when you have osteoporosis.

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