I’ve seen a lot of anxious, worried people who’ve just been diagnosed with osteoporosis and are struggling to cope with what it means. One thing I tell them is that getting a diagnosis of osteoporosis is a good thing. Really! Here’s why.
Osteoporosis can be completely silent — until it isn’t
When you have undiagnosed osteoporosis, you lack a key piece of information that you need to take action — you can’t solve a problem you don’t know exists. If you’ve gotten an osteoporosis diagnosis, it means that “silent” disease is no longer hiding from you. That means you can do something about it, hopefully before you experience a fracture.
Here’s the thing about osteoporotic fractures: Even when you have them, you may not know you have them unless you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and have had your bones assessed with x-rays or DEXA scans. Many osteoporotic fractures (especially vertebral fractures) are tiny and relatively painless, so they go unnoticed for months or even years. This allows the underlying imbalance in your bones to worsen until suddenly that “silent” bone loss turns into a potentially devastating major bone break.
A lot of people only find out they have significant bone loss when they have a low-impact bone fracture — one where they have an obvious (and, yes, painful) bone break under a situation that normally wouldn’t cause one, like breaking a bone in your foot after slipping off a curb. If instead of a small foot fracture you wind up with a major fracture to an arm, leg, or worst of all, a hip, it can be life-altering — so if being diagnosed with osteoporosis helps you avoid that, it’s something to be thankful for!
Osteoporosis shines a spotlight on your health
Being diagnosed with osteoporosis offers a window into the health of your entire body. It may simply be showing you that you need more exercise to strengthen your muscles, or better nutrition to provide your bones the building blocks they need to become stronger and more resilient — but it could also be illuminating a hidden health problem that may be uncovered through further testing. And without the osteoporosis finding, you might never have known to look.
A diagnosis is an opportunity
If it sounds like I’m urging you to “look on the bright side” of a finding most people would dread, well, I am — positive thinking is a good way to support your bones, after all — but there’s more to it than that! The most important benefit of getting an osteoporosis diagnosis is the opportunity it gives you to improve your bone health, as well as your overall health. Being told you have osteoporosis is a wake-up call and reminding you to take care of yourself — which is especially important if you’ve spent much of your life taking care of others.
The diagnosis opens the door to building better bones in a better body and learning new things — like the importance of pH balance and the multi-dimensional roles that vitamin D plays, or even how to assess your own nutritional adequacy. And it motivates you to explore exercise — clearly a very important way to build bone and to increase overall sense of well-being and overall health.
There are many options available to address the problem once you understand it exists — and my Better Bones, Better Body program was developed specifically to guide you in solving it.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.