Who Does Osteoporosis Affect?

The real­i­ty may sur­prise you.

May is Nation­al Osteo­poro­sis Month, a great time to set the record straight about this debil­i­tat­ing and poten­tial­ly dead­ly dis­ease. While it’s the most com­mon type of bone dis­ease, there is still a lot of mis­un­der­stand­ing about who can suf­fer from it and what can be done to pre­vent it.

Let’s start with some osteo­poro­sis quick facts:

  • A wom­an’s risk of bone frac­ture is equal to her risk of breast, uter­ine and ovar­i­an can­cer combined.
  • A man is more like­ly to break a bone due to osteo­poro­sis than he is of get­ting prostate cancer.
  • Six months after a hip frac­ture, only 15 per­cent of patients are able to walk with­out assis­tance across a room.
  • 24 per­cent of hip frac­ture patients age 50 and over die in the year fol­low­ing the fracture.
  • Osteo­poro­sis is a silent” dis­ease; often the first symp­tom is frac­ture, which makes ear­ly detec­tion and pre­ven­tion very important!

Despite the enor­mous health impact on so many peo­ple, this con­di­tion often goes undi­ag­nosed or untreat­ed. Here we look at some com­mon myths and real­i­ties for this disease.

Myth: Only women need to wor­ry about osteoporosis

Real­i­ty: While women are slight­ly pre­dis­posed to osteo­poro­sis, it is a dis­ease com­mon­ly found in men. One in two women and up to one in three men over the age of 50 will expe­ri­ence a bro­ken bone due to osteoporosis.

Myth: Only old peo­ple get osteoporosis

Real­i­ty: Young peo­ple with cer­tain dis­eases or who are tak­ing cer­tain med­ica­tions are also at risk. Celi­ac dis­ease, rheuma­toid arthri­tis and oth­er autoim­mune dis­eases, low testos­terone, women with irreg­u­lar peri­ods, endocrine con­di­tions like thy­roid and parathy­roid dis­ease are a few of the con­di­tions that can con­tribute to ear­ly osteo­poro­sis. Med­ica­tions for acid reflux, seizures, prostate can­cer and steroids (among oth­ers) can also cause osteo­poro­sis at a younger age. 

Myth: Osteo­poro­sis is a nor­mal part of aging

Real­i­ty: This dis­ease is NOT a nor­mal part of aging! It’s a seri­ous dis­ease that caus­es bro­ken bones, suf­fer­ing, pain and life-alter­ing, even debil­i­tat­ing, loss of mobil­i­ty that can be treat­ed. Sad­ly, near­ly 80 per­cent of old­er Amer­i­cans who suf­fer a bone break aren’t test­ed or treat­ed for osteoporosis.

Myth: There’s noth­ing I can do to pre­vent osteoporosis

Real­i­ty: You can pre­vent osteo­poro­sis, and the younger you start the less like­ly you are to suf­fer from the dis­ease. Eat­ing foods rich in cal­ci­um and Vit­a­min D, exer­cis­ing reg­u­lar­ly, not smok­ing and avoid­ing heavy alco­hol use can help pre­vent osteoporosis.

Myth: Osteo­poro­sis med­ica­tions are bad for you and they don’t work, or cause fractures

Real­i­ty: Osteo­poro­sis med­ica­tions are very safe and effec­tive when used appro­pri­ate­ly. Your med­ical provider can dis­cuss safe­ty and effi­ca­cy with you if he/​she feels you would ben­e­fit from a med­ica­tion for osteoporosis.

There’s no doubt about it, osteo­poro­sis is a seri­ous and debil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion. But there are things you can do now to pre­vent devel­op­ment of this dis­ease, or, if you have osteo­poro­sis, you can start tak­ing steps to reduce your risk of fur­ther frac­tures and bone den­si­ty loss.

Talk to your provider if you feel you are at risk for osteo­poro­sis. They may refer you to our Frac­ture Liai­son Ser­vice where we can con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive bone health eval­u­a­tion, inves­ti­gate poten­tial caus­es for poor bone qual­i­ty, and devel­op a per­son­al­ized plan of care.