‘Its a Women’s Illness’ and Other Myths About Osteoporosis, Busted
‘I’m not a woman, so I won’t get osteoporosis.’
‘I get enough sun, and I don’t have calcium deficiency, I won’t get it.’
‘Well, I’m a woman and It’s inevitable, so why bother?’
Have you ever thought of Osteoporosis and thought any of this? Or perhaps you haven’t thought of osteoporosis at all, after all, it’s something that only old people get, right?
Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to grow weak and brittle, can lead to frequent fractures, painful movements and usually occurs in old age.
It is also a condition that creeps up on you. Because osteoporosis doesn’t usually come knocking with squeaking joints and warning pangs. It can show up as acute pain, or even a stress fracture from simply walking.
Dr Nikunj Agrawal, Senior Consultant, Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement, Max Multi Speciality Centre, Noida, talks to FIT about these and some other misconceptions surrounding osteoporosis that we should be wary of.
Myth 1: 'Only Women Get it.'
Although it is true that women are at a higher risk of getting osteoporosis, men can get it too.
“Certain hormonal changes, during and after menopause changes the calcium metabolism, decreasing the deposition of calcium on the bones, and so there is a significant reduction in bone mass”, says Dr Agrawal.
“But it’s not just women, men are also at a significant risk of getting osteoporosis, especially if it runs in the family. So it’s important they take care of their bone health in their younger years as well.”Dr Nikunj Agrawal, Senior Consultant, Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement, Max Multi Speciality Centre
Myth 2: You Are Only at Risk if You Have Calcium Deficiency
Other significant factors that contribute to a higher risk of osteoporosis are genetics and ethnicity.
“Us Asians largely have a higher risk of osteoporosis as compared to Caucasians and Africans because of our slighter builds, we have a lower bone density, and even our dietary habits are predominantly low in protein and calcium.”Dr Nikunj Agrawal, Senior Consultant, Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement, Max Multi Speciality Centre
Certain diseases like diabetes and thyroid dysfunction can also contribute to a higher risk.
“Taking too much medication containing steroids is another factor that increases the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life,” he says.
Myth 3: 'if You Get Osteoporosis, Taking Vitamin D Supplements Can Strengthen Your Bones and Undo the Damage'
“This is a big misconception,” says Dr Agrawal. Vitamin D alone can’t reverse the condition. “People with severe osteoporosis need to take specific anti-osteoporosis medication.”
But before medication, anyone who feels like they may be at a high risk of having osteoporosis, or have any related symptoms, must first get a BDT (Bone Density Test) done.
“If your BDT score falls in the red zone, then you will need certain specific medication by prescription.”Dr Nikunj Agrawal, Senior Consultant, Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement, Max Multi Speciality Centre
Myth 4: 'Its a natural part of aging and there's no way to prevent it'
While genetic osteoporosis may be inevitable, there are ways to protect your bones and minimise the symptoms later in life. And there are also certain factors that could aggravate it.
“Heavy drinking and smoking,” according to Dr Agrawal can increase the risk of osteoporosis in both women and men.
Getting regular exercise and a good diet, on the other hand, can significantly reduce the risk, “especially of the nongenetic variety, that stems from having a poor lifestyle.”
Because the ‘symptoms’ don’t really start showing up until the disease has already caused adverse damage to your bones, Dr Agrawal recommends getting bone density tests routinely so you can any unusual deterioration earlier on.
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