Chew on this bone
It's time to
gain a better understanding of osteoporosis
What do we know about osteoporosis ? Apart from recognizing it as an illness
that affects the bones and that millions of people around the world suffer from
it, there is a general lack of awareness of this disease.
Since today is World Osteoporosis Day (WOD), let us delve further into this
ailment and understand osteoporosis fully and how we can prevent it.
The myths of osteoporosis
Myth 1 : I am too young to worry
Osteoporosis is a pediatric disease
which shows itself mainly when people are more than 50 years old. You are never
too young to take preventative measures. This includes healthy nutrition with
adequate calcium, vitamin D and protein, regular weight-bearing exercise, not
smoking and controlling your alcohol intake. Bone mass acquired during youth is
an important determinant of the risk of osteoporotic fracture during later life.
You can also help older family members learn about their osteoporosis risk.
Myth 2 : Osteoporosis is just a
natural part of ageing.
Now that much more is known about the
causes of osteoporosis, we know that not all people will have this condition as
they age. By building strong bones through exercise and healthy nutrition when
young, maintaining good bone health during adulthood and taking measures when we
age, everyone can minimize the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Myth 3 : Only old ladies have
There are many misconceptions about
osteoporosis, for example that it is "an old woman's disease". Osteoporosis is a
global problem which is increasing in significance as the population of the
world both grows and ages. In fact, bone loss in women can begin as early as age
25. Worldwide, the lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is
around one in three.
The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Often there are no
symptoms until the first fracture occurs. Osteoporosis is also known as "the
silent epidemic" because a person usually doesn't know he has it until it's too
Myth 4 : Men don't suffer from
Studies have shown the prevalence of
osteoporosis in men is higher than previously thought -- with approximately one
in five men affected. One in three hip fractures and one in five vertebral
fractures occur in men. The risk of vertebral and hip fractures in men increases
greatly with heavy alcohol intake, particularly with long-term intake.
It is estimated that the lifetime risk of experiencing an osteoporotic
fracture in men over the age of 50 is one in three, similar to the lifetime risk
of developing prostate cancer. In Sweden, osteoporotic fracture sin men account
for more hospital bed days than those due to prostate cancer.
Myth 5 : There's nothing you can
do about osteoporosis if you have it.
Osteoporosis can be managed and
treated by physicians from various areas of specialization -- including general
practitioners, endocrinologists, gynaecologists, rheumatologists and orthopedic
surgeons. There are a number of different therapies available that can reduce
the risk of vertebral fractures by up to 65% and non-vertebral fractures by up
Besides drug therapy, calcium and vitamin D supplements might also be
prescribed to ensure adequate intake and ensure maximum effectiveness of the
Regular weight-bearing exercise has been shown to help maintain and build up
bone mass. The stronger muscles, better balance and agility to which exercise
contributes can also help in fall prevention. Rehabilitation following
fractures, strategies for the prevention of falls, and psychological and
practical support are important components of therapy. Osteoporosis patients and
medical societies may be able to provide further information about physicians
with special expertise in treating osteoporosis.
Myth 6 : Osteoporosis is not a
serious or deadly condition
Osteoporosis is a widespread public
health problem. The costs to national healthcare systems from
osteoporosis-related hospitalization are staggering. One in three women over 50
will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will one in five men. The lifetime
risk for a woman or man of dying from hip fracture complications is the same as
for dying from breast or prostate cancer respectively.
Osteoporosis affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, the United
States and Japan. This figure is projected to double within 50 years. It is also
estimated that around 225 million people in Europe, the US and Japan have low
bone mass, termed as "osteopenia".
Due to demographic changes, the greatest increase in the number of people
with osteoporosis will be in Asia and Latin America. It is projected that about
50% of all osteoporotic hip fractures will occur in Asia by the year 2050.