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Debunking myths: Five misconceptions about osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a life-long debilitating condition in which bone mineral density is reduced. It is a silent disease as it progresses for a long time without any symptoms, and is generally only diagnosed when a bone is broken. Hip, vertebrae and wrist fractures are the most common type of break seen with the condition.

health and fitness Updated: Oct 22, 2015 12:33 IST
Not just women, men can also be affected, albeit in smaller numbers as the ratio among sufferers is one in four men over 50 will break a bone due to the disease compared to one in two women.
Not just women, men can also be affected, albeit in smaller numbers as the ratio among sufferers is one in four men over 50 will break a bone due to the disease compared to one in two women.(AFP)

World Osteoporosis Day, celebrated on October 20, provides an opportunity to let people know that sufferers of this condition, which affects 54 million Americans, do not have to resign themselves to fate.

Osteoporosis is a life-long debilitating condition in which bone mineral density is reduced. It is a silent disease as it progresses for a long time without any symptoms, and is generally only diagnosed when a bone is broken. Hip, vertebrae and wrist fractures are the most common type of break seen with the condition.

Here are five misconceptions about the disease

1. Only cow’s milk can help to fight osteoporosis

Calcium-rich food, including cow’s milk and dairy products (yoghurts, cheese, etc.) is essential for boosting bone health and rebuilding it when it breaks, because its composition is 99% calcium. However, calcium is present in other food, including fruit and vegetables, and taking vitamin D on a regular basis is also recommended.

Read: Short gap between pregnancies increases osteoporosis risk

2. Osteoporosis only affects women

Men can also be affected, albeit in smaller numbers as the ratio among sufferers is one in four men over 50 will break a bone due to the disease compared to one in two women. The male form of the disease often comes later in life.

Read: Smoking increase your risk of osteoporosis

3. Osteoporosis is an old person’s disease

The condition is often associated with old people. In fact, while it mainly occurs after menopause because of the sudden drop in sex hormone levels, it can also emerge from the age of 30 in people with a weak bone structure who have been affected by drugs they have taken (especially corticosteroids), or in those at risk because of a family history of osteoporosis.

4. There’s no treatment for osteoporosis

Current treatments do not repair what has been damaged but protect bone mineral density by reducing the risk of fractures, as long as the sufferer begins to take them at the earliest possible opportunity. These treatments should be combined with preventative action such as exercise and a very healthy lifestyle.

5. Osteoporosis is a painful condition

The condition progresses without any clinical symptoms or visible signs. It is not painful in itself. It is only the fracture -- caused by the weakening of the bone which becomes less dense as a result of the osteoporosis-- which can lead to pain and disability. Similarly, the vertebral compression which can be caused by the disease is very painful.