Common myths about osteoporosis - setting the record straight

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Myth: Men do not get osteoporosis.

Fact: The disease can strike anyone at any age. In Canada, one in four women over the age of 50 has osteoporosis and one in eight men over 50 also has the disease.

Myth: You will know if you have osteoporosis.

Fact: You can lose bone mass gradually for many years without experiencing any symptoms or signs of the disease until a bone fractures. That is why, osteoporosis is often referred to as the "silent thief" - literally stealing bone mass without giving you any indication whatsoever that you have the disease.

Myth: Osteoporosis does not result in death.

Fact: Seventy per cent of hip fractures are osteoporosis-related. Hip fractures result in death in up to 20 per cent of cases, and disability in 50 per cent of those who survive.

Myth: My quality of life will remain the same even if I have osteoporosis.

Fact: Individuals with osteoporosis have a reduced quality of life. Osteoporosis can result in disfigurement, reduction or loss of mobility and loss of independence.

Myth: Dairy products are the only source of calcium.

Fact: Though products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are rich in calcium, there are many other foods that also are a good source of calcium, including tofu, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, kale and bok choy.

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Myth: Bone tissue cannot be renewed.

Fact: Bone is a living tissue and is made up of mostly minerals. The bones in our bodies are constantly being replaced with new bone. Cells called osteoclasts erode the bone, creating small cavities. Bone-forming cells called osteoblasts then fill in the cavities with new bone. This is nature's way of restoring bones and keeping them healthy. Osteoporosis occurs when bone tissue and minerals are lost faster than the bone is replaced.

Myth: Bone mass only starts to decrease in women after menopause.

Fact: Generally, bone density builds up during childhood and reaches a peak between the ages of 30 and 35. Bone mass is then maintained for about 10 years. After 35 years of age, both men and women will lose approximately 0.3 to 0.5 per cent of their bone density per year as part of the aging process. Therefore, it's never too early to start protecting your bones. Prevention is the best medicine.

Myth: Osteoporosis is not an important public health issue.

Fact: The cost of treating osteoporosis and the fractures it causes is about $1.3 billion each year in Canada. Without effective prevention and treatment strategies, it is estimated that by 2018 Canada will spend at least $32.5 billion treating osteoporotic fractures.

Myth: There are no natural products that have been clinically tested and proven to prevent or treat osteoporosis.

Fact: Health Canada recently approved a natural health supplement called PromensilT. It is the first over-the-counter natural health product in Canada that has the clinical evidence behind it to show that it is effective and safe in slowing the progression of bone loss with the added benefit of alleviating menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.

Another natural health product that has also been extensively studied is RimostilT, which is effective in treating women with osteoporosis because it stimulates osteoblasts - bone building cells that help to restore bones and keep them healthy.

Note: Certain information included in this article has been adapted from the Osteoporosis Society of Canada's website www.osteoporosis.ca.

- News Canada

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