May is National Osteoporosis Month, which means it’s an ideal time to review some of the myths and facts about osteoporosis. This common health condition, which causes bone breaks in half of women over age 50, can lead to pain, disability, and a significant drop in your quality of life.
Here at Westover Hills Women’s Health in San Antonio, Texas, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist Houmam Al-Hakeem, MD, wants to help you protect your bone health. To that end, we share the following myths and facts about osteoporosis.
Myth: Osteoporosis has many early warning signs
Fact: Most people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone, lose height, or develop curvature in their upper back. These things typically occur after the condition has progressed. For this reason, osteoporosis is commonly referred to as a silent disease.
Myth: Osteoporosis is only a problem for old women
Fact: Although it’s more common among people over age 50, osteoporosis can occur at any age. And although it is five times more common in women, men can also get osteoporosis.
Myth: You cannot prevent osteoporosis
Fact: There are many steps you can take to help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet that contains foods with calcium and vitamin D
- Doing weight-bearing exercise such as brisk walking, dancing, elliptical training, and stair climbing
- Doing muscle-strengthening exercise such as weightlifting, using weight machines, and exercising with elastic fitness bands
- Taking vitamin supplements containing calcium and vitamin D as recommended by your health care provider
- Taking bone-protecting medication as prescribed by your health care provider
Myth: You must drink milk to protect your bones
Fact: Most milk and dairy foods contain calcium and vitamin D, which are important for bone health, but you can also get these nutrients from other foods.
Good nondairy sources of calcium include collard greens, broccoli rabe, kale, canned sardines with bones, canned salmon with bones, and calcium-fortified plant milks and soy foods.
Good nondairy sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, and tuna) and vitamin D-fortified orange juice, cereals, and plant milks. You can also get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight 15 minutes a day, a few days a week.
Myth: Most people get plenty of vitamin D
Fact: Vitamin D helps your body use calcium, but according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, many people need vitamin D supplements because they don’t get enough vitamin D from foods and sunlight. This is especially true if you don’t eat dairy or other foods with vitamin D, or if you can’t or don’t get much sun exposure.
Myth: Osteoporosis tests use large amounts of radiation
Fact: Bone mineral density tests are simple, noninvasive, and painless, and they expose you to a very small amount of radiation — far less than a cross-country airline trip. You can have your bone density tested safely and effectively in just a few minutes.
How are your bones?
Make a commitment to your bone health by scheduling a yearly well-woman checkup that includes a bone health evaluation and, if necessary, a referral for bone density testing. To schedule a consultation at one of our two San Antonio, Texas, offices, call us today or make an appointment using our online tool.