May 22, 2017

Bone Health: Myth vs. Fact – Determining Your Risk for Osteoporosis

By Adam Kaufman, MD

As with any disease or medical condition, there are a plethora of so-called “facts” about osteoporosis floating out in the stratosphere. And whether you’ve picked up one or more of these in a conversation with a friend or family member, or found it online, it’s important to be able to distinguish myth from reality in determining your risk for osteoporosis.

  • Myth #1 – Osteoporosis is a rare disease and is less significant than other medical issues.
    • Fact – Osteoporosis and osteopenia are widespread in the United States and especially in western North Carolina. More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. More than 43 million Americans have low bone mass. Together this represents half of Americans over 50 years old and over one-quarter of the population of the United States. There are more than 2.1 million fragility fractures that occur in the United States annually, more than the incidence of stroke, heart attack and breast cancer combined. These fractures can have a huge impact of mobility and health. For instance, 50 percent of patients with hip fractures never return to their pre-injury level of walking, and 30 percent die within a year of their fracture.
  • Myth #2 – Osteoporosis is a disease of older, less active people, so young individuals do not have to worry about bone health.
    • Fact – While bone mineral density decreases naturally over time, peak bone mass is achieved during a person’s late 20s or early 30s. It’s very important then that younger patients maximize this peak bone strength early in life by not smoking, avoiding alcohol, maintaining an appropriate diet and body weight, and exercising regularly.
  • Myth #3 – People with a family history of fragile bones are destined to have weak bones and fractures later in life.
    • Fact – There is a slightly increased risk of fragility fractures in those with a strong family history of osteoporosis. However, this increased risk can be mitigated by lifestyle modifications and, potentially, medications to promote strong bones.
  • Myth #4 – There are no effective medications for osteoporosis. The ones that are available are difficult to take and have severe side effects.
    • Fact – Recently, several new and extremely effective medications have been introduced to combat weak bones. There are two basic types of medications: some prevent the natural leaching of bone over time and others actually help the body deposit more bone. Both of these two types of medications are very effective at improving bone mineral density (bone stock) as well as preventing fragility fractures of the spine, hip and elsewhere. While these medications are not right for everyone, they are, in general, convenient and have relatively few major side effects.

Adam Kaufman, MD, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in osteoporosis, bone health, and fracture prevention. To learn more about how you can prevent low energy bone fractures, schedule an appointment directly with Mission’s new Fracture Prevention Service by calling (828) 213-1994.