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Who Does Osteoporosis Affect?

The reality may surprise you.
By Falguni Vasa, MD, FACE

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.

Topics and Subtopics: General Health & Senior's Health

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