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Osteoporosis Myth: Only Old White Women Get Osteoporosis

Reality: Everyone needs to be concerned with their bone health! Although white women appear to be at greatest risk for osteoporosis, osteoporosis does not discriminate: men and women of all ethnic groups can develop the disease.

Osteoporosis statistics show that about 2 million men are living with the disease today, and another 3.5 million men are at risk of developing osteoporosis. Although women experience more rapid bone loss in their 50s, by their late 60s, men and women are losing bone mass at the same rate. One-quarter of men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

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A woman's risk of osteoporosis rises sharply after menopause, particularly for white and Asian women, and those with small, thin frames. This is because after menopause women can lose about 20% of their bone mass within 5-7 years. However, studies have shown that as many as 2% of college-age women may already have osteoporosis, and another 15% have significantly lost bone density. No one is immune from osteoporosis.

Imagine if you had to live the rest of your life on the money you'd saved by the time you were 30. Well, that's exactly what your bones have to do. Bones reach their peak mass around age 30, after which they gradually lose mineral reserves. So children, teenagers, and young adults are building bone that must last the rest of their lives.

Men and women of all ages should start taking osteoporosis seriously from the time they are young, when they can put bone density "in the bank."

Osteoporosis doesn't have to be a natural part of aging -- for men or women. To build bone now and help prevent osteoporosis later:

  • Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. Just like your muscles, your bones need to be worked regularly to keep them strong. Studies show that young women who participate in athletics have the highest bone density, and that postmenopausal women who participate in regular exercise can prevent or reverse bone loss by almost 1% a year.
  • Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D -- 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400-800 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D daily if you're under 50, and 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 1000 IU of D daily if you're over 50. Good natural sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals and juices. Three and a half ounces of cooked salmon contains 90% of your daily dose of Vitamin D. If you can't get enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, you can take supplements. Consider getting your vitamin D level checked by your doctor.
  • Don't smoke. The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the greater your risk of fracture in old age. Quitting smoking appears to lower this risk over time.
  • Talk to your doctor about bone health, and get regular bone scans when recommended.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on January 13, 2015

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