Top 10 myths about osteoporosis
Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD
Are you frightened by what you hear about bone loss and osteoporosis? You certainly
don’t need to be! That’s because 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 set the record straight:
Myth 1: Lack of calcium causes osteoporosis.
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 enough of 19 additional
essential bone 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 vitamin K, magnesium and strontium.
Myth 2: Osteoporosis is normal... as your bones age they should get weak.
Bone loss — even osteoporosis — can affect you in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.
One of the most dangerous bone health myths is that osteoporosis is inevitable as
we age. 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.
Research shows that over half of the people with thin “osteoporotic bone” never
experience a fracture. What’s more, many people who have normal bone density do
experience fractures. To identify your personal fracture risk, take a fracture risk
assessment rather than relying only on a bone density test (DEXA).
Myth 4: Osteopenia leads to osteoporosis.
An osteopenia diagnosis 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 automatically 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. One study finds that even nursing home residents,
average age of 81, build bone mass from doing light exercises and taking calcium
and vitamin D daily.
Myth 5: 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 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
The U.S. Surgeon General recommends much more than drugs! In fact, in 2004 the Surgeon
General provided a pyramid outlining the best ways to promote bone health and prevent
osteoporosis and fracture. The first steps in the pyramid are the natural approach
to bone health combining nutrition, physical activity and fall prevention. Next
comes assessing and treating the underlying causes of compromised bone health. Finally,
as the final resort, is the use of bone drugs.
Myth 8: Osteoporosis is common all over the world.
Osteoporotic fracture rates vary greatly around the world, with the U.S. having
one of the highest fracture rates. It’s clear that certain lifestyle factors play
major roles in bone loss, including:
- High levels of stress and anxiety
- Lack of exercise
- High caffeine intake
- Use of certain prescription drugs
- Poor nutrition
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.
Myth 10: There aren’t any signs or symptoms of bone loss.
While many women don’t realize they have a bone issue until they fracture, there
are early 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. Another good way to know if you are losing
bone is to test your pH level to see if your body is acidic, which can deplete your
bone mass systematically until you begin eating a more alkalizing diet.
By knowing these facts about bone loss, osteoporosis and fracture, you can take
the steps to have better bones now and for life. A good next step is to take my
Fracture Risk Assessment to find out
your true risk. Why don’t you take it right now?
Start reducing your risk of bone loss today
with Better Bones
Sign up for our
free weekly blog
Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD
Try our products
Related to this article:
Original Publication Date: 03/26/2012
Principal Author: Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD