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Osteoporosis Risk Factors: Fact vs. Fiction

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Think you know all about osteoporosis? Chances are, some of the things you think you know about osteoporosis risk factors may be wrong. Osteoporosis is a complicated disease, one that we are still learning about. With all the changing information out there, it's easy to get confused.

Here are a few common myths about osteoporosis risk factors.

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Fiction: Only women need to worry about osteoporosis.

It's true osteoporosis affects women far more than it does men. About 80% of all osteoporosis patients are women. But that means that men account for 20% of cases -- and since the disease affects 10 million people (and growing), that means 2 million men in the U.S. have osteoporosis right now. Another 3 million have osteopenia, the decline in bone mass that can progress to osteoporosis if not properly treated. Men actually have a greater risk of developing a fracture related to osteoporosis than prostate cancer, and they're nearly twice as likely as women to die in the year following a fracture.

"In older men and women of the same age, women have about 90% of the spine fractures. But men have about one-third of the hip fractures, and that's an awful lot," says Robert Heaney, MD, FACP, a professor of medicine at Creighton University, in Omaha, Neb., and a nationally recognized expert on osteoporosis. He is also an advisory panel member for the National Dairy Council's 3-A-Day of Dairy program. "It's not an exclusively female disease by any means, and men need to take it seriously as well."

Fiction: If you are on an osteoporosis drug, you don't need to worry about getting enough calcium and vitamin D.

You may assume that the drug you're taking to treat your osteoporosis has calcium and vitamin D in it as well -- but that's not necessarily the case. "The drugs can help prevent bone loss, but they don't give you the raw materials -- calcium and phosphorus -- that make up bone minerals. If the body doesn't have that, the drugs can't help it." Heaney told WebMD. Be sure to eat a diet rich in calcium, even if you are taking medication, and ask your physician about osteoporosis drugs that include Vitamin D.

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