5 Common Osteoporosis Myths, Debunked

Get the facts and learn how to protect your bone health.

Medically reviewed in October 2021

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More than 50 million Americans have osteoporosis or are at higher risk for the disease but there are still many lingering myths about the condition, which occurs when the bones become weak, brittle and more likely to break. These common misconceptions may prevent people from seeking the care they need.

Read on to get the facts—and debunk the myths—about osteoporosis.

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It’s just part of getting older

Bones are made up of living tissue that’s constantly being replaced. Once you’re in your 30s however, you may start losing more bone than you replace, causing them to become weaker, thinner and more likely to break over time. As you get older, your risk for osteoporosis increases, but it’s not a normal part of aging and not everyone develops the condition.

Exercise along with a calcium and vitamin D-rich diet is vital to making kids’ bones strong, but you’re never too old to adopt healthy habits that support your bone health, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

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It’s a problem for older white women

It’s true. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, and the older people get, the greater their risk for the condition. It’s also true that osteoporosis is more common among white people. But those of Asian descent are also at higher risk as well as anyone with a family history of the disease.

Despite these risk factors, osteoporosis could affect anyone—men and women of all races. Even though fragility fractures are more common among women, men generally have higher rates of fracture related deaths, the International Osteoporosis Foundation reports.

Everyone should be vigilant about their bone health.

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You can’t prevent osteoporosis

There are several ways you can protect your bone health and help reduce your risk for osteoporosis, according to the NOF. Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises, in particular, help keep bones strong. High impact weight-bearing exercises include jogging, dancing and tennis. If you’re concerned about stress on your joints, low impact activities, such as walking or using an elliptical machine, can also help keep your bones strong. Practicing yoga and lifting weights—even light ones—are other ways to build muscle that will support your bones.

Your diet and certain lifestyle habits also matter. When it comes to strong bones, consuming enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet is important. Women age 50 and younger and men age 70 and younger should get 1,000mg of calcium daily. Women age 51 and older and men age 71 and older should get slightly more, or 1,200mg, according to the NOF. Meanwhile, most adults younger than 50 should get between 400 and 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily, the NOF advises. Those age 50 or older need between 800 and 1,000 IU. Keep in mind, some people may need more vitamin D than others. Talk to your healthcare provider about how much is right for you.

Not smoking and limiting your alcohol intake are other ways you can reduce your risk for osteoporosis.

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It’s not a serious condition

Osteoporosis is often a “silent” disease. Some people may not even realize they have it until they break a bone. This may be dangerous for older people who may be frail and have other underlying health issues. Approximately 1 in 10 people who break a hip aren’t able to return to a fully independent lifestyle, performing everyday functions like shopping and cooking.

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Genes don’t matter

Some risk factors for osteoporosis can be controlled. For example, following a healthy diet with adequate intake of vitamin D and calcium, exercising regularly and not smoking can all help protect your bones and prevent bone loss. Your DNA however, also plays a role. Some people are genetically more susceptible to osteoporosis than others. Other risk factors for bone loss that can’t be controlled include older age, being a woman, being white or of Asian descent, taking certain medications for chronic conditions and having a history of fractures.

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