The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) estimates that one in three women and one in five men are likely to develop osteoporosis at some point in their lives. Statistics have shown that since 1996, the number of osteoporosis cases has increased nearly five times, leading some medical professionals to theorize that the increase may be due to lifestyle factors such as inactivity and poor diet.

Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease which causes gradual bone loss. Any bone in the body can be affected by this disease, but the most common fracture sites are the wrists, hips and spine. A few myths surrounding the disease are that it only affects elderly, Caucasian women and that it carries easily recognizable symptoms. Yet statistics show that women and men of any age can develop osteoporosis. Poor diet and lack of exercise during adolescence is causing the disease to appear in younger adults. Symptoms of osteoporosis include postural changes, decrease in height and back pain but patients may remain asymptomatic for years—only to be diagnosed when they fracture a bone. The risk factors listed below are identified by the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) are grouped by hereditary and lifestyle factors:

Risk Factors You CANNOT Control:
• Family history of the disease or bone fracture after age 50
• Female gender
• Thin or small frame
• Caucasian or Asian
• Advanced age

Risk Factors You CAN Control:
• Calcium intake
• Inactive Lifestyle
• Excessive alcohol use
• Cigarette smoking
• Poor nutrition
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Chronic medical conditions
• Estrogen deficiency
• Low testosterone level (men)

Common myths about osteoporosis is that it is a natural part of aging, an elderly or Caucasian woman’s disease, not a serious disease and cannot be stopped once it starts. In fact, these myths are just that—falsehoods! Osteoporosis is not a death sentence, nor should it be a license to stop activity. In fact, inactivity is a key contributor to osteoporosis! Listed below is the truth to bust these four myths and help you to understand how to stop this disease in its tracks.

Osteoporosis Myth Busters

1. Osteoporosis is NOT a natural part of the aging process—It can be prevented by a proper diet and activity in childhood, adolescence and throughout your entire life. It can also be slowed down with lifestyle changes and increased activity levels.

2. Women AND men of any age can be affected—The NOF states that an estimated 10 million Americans are afflicted with this disease. Of those, two million are men. The statistics from the NOF are that 44 million people in the U.S. have some portion of the disease or low bone mass. This statistic includes Hispanic, Asian and African-American men and women of all ages. In fact, younger women with low bone mass are becoming more common due to poor physical fitness in childhood.

3. Osteoporosis is a very serious SILENT disease—Many people afflicted with the disease do not know that they have it until they fracture a bone or get tested at a routine doctor’s exam. Some of the symptoms of the disease are height loss, back pain and postural imbalances. These symptoms can be assumed to be a normal part of the aging process, but in fact are very serious. Fractures of the hip or vertebrae can lead to a life of chronic pain or death.

4. Osteoporosis CAN be slowed down—Obviously it is much better to prevent the disease entirely by proper diet and activity. However, those who have been diagnosed with the disease can improve their bone health through a combination of proper diet and activity.

Whether you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, osteopenia—early onset of the disease or know that you are at risk it is important to start on a program immediately to build bone density. The first step is to improve your diet. The next steps are to increase your activity. A good bone health program should include weight bearing, core strengthening, posture assessment and balance work. In addition, become more aware of your own posture in daily life and practice your balance at home using a countertop or sturdy chair to assist you.