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Osteoporosis Myths and Facts

See common myths and facts about osteoporosis. Got more questions? Ask our women's health expert.

Myth: Only women are affected by osteoporosis.

Fact: Men get osteoporosis, too. Women naturally have smaller, thinner bones than men, so they are at higher risk. However, 20% of those affected by osteoporosis are men. One in every four men and one in every two women over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

Myth: If I drink milk and take calcium supplements, I won't develop osteoporosis.

Fact: Getting enough calcium is important but that alone is not enough to prevent osteoporosis.

Myth: Osteoporosis is a disease of the elderly. Only older people need to worry about it.

Osteoporosis is not a natural part of aging. Prevention of osteoporosis should begin during your youth and young adult life. The opportunity to build strong bones begins then. Make these steps a part of your life: a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D; weight-bearing exercise; a healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake; bone density testing and medications for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis when appropriate.

Myth: There are no particular risk factors for osteoporosis other than age and being female.

Fact: Age is a major risk factor, especially for those over 65. But ,those with the following characteristics also are at risk:

  • fair skin (Caucasian or Asian)
  • small bone structure
  • early menopause or post-menopausal
  • family history of osteoporosis
  • low body weight
  • low-calcium diet
  • inactive lifestyle
  • excessive alcohol intake
  • tobacco use
  • eating disorders
  • use of certain medications such as steroids or anticonvulsants

Talk to your healthcare provider about your personal risk for osteoporosis.

Myth: You can't tell if you have osteoporosis unless you fall and break a bone.

Fact: A bone density test can give your healthcare provider important information about the strength of your bones and your risk for fracturing a bone in the future. The bone densitometer uses small amounts of X-ray to measure the amount of bone mineral and this relates directly to bone strength.

Myth: A bone density test is painful and complicated.

Fact: This is a simple and comfortable exam. A bone densitometer looks like a large, padded exam table and measures bone density by using a small amount of radiation. You lie on your back, and a scanner passes over your spine and hip area. The test is painless and takes less than 10 minutes.