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Osteoporosis: You Probably Arenít Cracking Up

Osteoporosis: You Probably Arenít Cracking Up

Youíve seen the ads: A hunched over old woman, looking either grouchy or sad, warns us what weíll look like if we continue on our current course and let our bones crumble to dust. The facing photo shows a vibrant, lovely (and slightly younger) woman who was smart enough to take the medicine being advertised and avoid this nightmare. Donít be had. Osteoporosis is a horrible diseaseóbut you probably donít have it, may never get it, and in order to prevent it, you do not have to take dangerous medicines.

Bones just naturally get thinner and weaker with ageójust like hair gets grayer and skin gets wrinkled. This is not necessarily a sign of illness. Premature or excessive bone loss, however, is a sign of illness. Serious bone loss has some very serious consequences, and many things can increase your risk, some you might not expect: Smoking, long-term use of certain medications (antidepressants, corticosteroids, thyroid hormones, certain antacids), alcoholism and depression.

Of course, now that your chances of living (and staying healthy) into your 80s and beyond are pretty good, youíll want to take care of your bones so you donít break a hip at 85 and miss the qualifying round of the seniors golf tournament. But donít let your fear of bone loss make you panic and start taking drugs you donít feel good about in an attempt to prevent a disease you may not even be at very high risk for.

According to a recent article in the British Medical Journal, the value of drugs to prevent osteoporosis is being greatly exaggerated. The BMJ authors go so far as to suggest that conflicts of interest (many of the drug trials on osteoporosis drugs are funded by the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs) contribute to a misleading interpretation and presentation of the data. The benefits of these drugs are actually very small in populations already at low risk. And despite the impression you may be getting from all the osteoporosis awareness campaigns, most middle-aged women are at fairly low risk of osteoporosis. The ads and the studies are designed to get you to take the drugs, not to give you an accurate understanding of your risk of the disease. Most women never experience a hip fracture (which is the worst consequence of osteoporosis), and those who do generally do not break a hip until they are in their 80s.

Another thing you wonít see much in ads placed by and studies funded by drug companies is that eating well and getting enough weight-bearing exercise have been shown in clinical trials to reduce your risk of osteoporosis as much as medicationówithout the dangerous side effects. Be realistic about your risk of disease and take sensible precautions. But donít react to fear-mongering ads.

Avery Hurt is a health and science journalist. Her work appears regularly in national publications such as: Better Homes and Gardens, Newsweek, and The New Physician. She is author of Bullet With Your Name On It: What You Will Probably Die From And What You Can Do About It (Clerisy Press, 2007) and Donít Worry, Iím Not Contagious: Your Guide to Staying Healthy in an Infectious World, due out from Clerisy, fall 2008. She is at work on her third book, on alternative medicine.

Read more: Blogs, Fitness, Osteoporosis, Simply Healthy

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Avery Hurt

Avery Hurt is a health and science journalist. Her work appears regularly in national publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Newsweek, and The New Physician. She is author of Bullet With Your Name On It: What You Will Probably Die From And What You Can Do About It (Clerisy Press, 2007) and Donít Worry, Iím Not Contagious: Your Guide to Staying Healthy in an Infectious World, due out from Clerisy, fall 2008. She is at work on her third book, on alternative medicine.

20 comments

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3:40PM PDT on Apr 5, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

1:21PM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

ty

8:59AM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

Good information on drugs that are recommended for osteoporosis. It is getting more difficutl to trust prescription drugs-if they really work or it is just the profit that works. A healthy lifestyle and good , healthy nutrition is the only way to stay healthy as we advance in age.
Thank you for this article.

11:08AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

Thanks

5:55PM PDT on Aug 10, 2012

thanks

8:05AM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

good to know

3:22AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Interesting article. Thanks. :)

8:58AM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Thank you

4:23PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

Interesting. Thanks!

11:32AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

thanks for sharing

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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