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Men and Young Adults Downplaying Osteoporosis Risk May Be Sorry E-mail
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Young adults and men of all ages do not see themselves as susceptible to osteoporosis, according to a new osteoporosis study. In their minds, the risk of suffering from what many consider an older woman’s disease seems distant or slim. The problem: They are missing preventive measures that if taken now, could decrease their future danger of developing osteoporosis.

Men and Young Adults Osteoporosis Study

In the study of 300 Canadian men and women, researchers found significant age and gender differences in how people perceived their susceptibility to osteoporosis. Specifically, middle-aged and older women scored significantly higher than younger participants and men, suggesting that older women believe they are at greater risk for osteoporosis.

“The low scores among younger people raise concerns for the approaching osteoporosis epidemic,” said Shanthi Johnson, Ph.D., lead study author and a professor at University of Regina. “Given the aging population and the growing percentage of older women within that population, osteoporosis should receive more recognition.”

According to Osteoporosis Canada, the disease is a debilitating one that weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures. Twenty percent of those who experience osteoporosis-based hip fractures die; another 50 percent suffer permanent disabilities.

While the osteoporosis does strike twice as many older women as it does men, men are also susceptible to osteoporosis. Because people can change their habits to lower osteoporosis risk, researchers are looking at people’s beliefs in order to develop and target osteoporosis prevention programs to the particular needs of each demographic.

The best defense against osteoporosis is building strong bones in childhood and young adulthood. Anybody can reduce their risk, however, by eating a well-balanced diet that is high in calcium and vitamin D and by participating in weight-bearing exercises or sports.

In the study, motivation to take preventive action and the perceived seriousness of osteoporosisosteoporosis. were similar across all age and gender groups — low — suggesting that people are not aware of the serious consequences of osteoporosis and that younger men and women are unlikely to change their behavior unless they change their beliefs about

Karen Chapman-Novakofski, Ph.D., at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, is encouraged that the susceptibility scores in Johnson’s study show some progress in osteoporosis awareness. “Years ago,” she said, “we found that younger women thought older women should know more about osteoporosis and that older women thought it was too late for them, and that younger women should know more.”

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Health Education & Behavior,a peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), publishes research on critical health issues for professionals in the implementation and administration of public health information programs.

Reference: Johnson CS, et al. Osteoporosis health beliefs among younger and older men and women. Health Education & Behavior 34(5), 2008.

About Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where bone breaks down over time. The bones become thin, brittle and break easily.

'Osteo' means bone, and 'porosis' thinning or becoming more porous, so osteoporosis literally means 'thinning of bone.' It is commonly confused with the word osteoarthritis, which is a form of arthritis that results in breakdown of the cartilage covering the ends of bones. In contrast, osteoporosis is a condition where bone itself breaks down.  Bones then become thin, brittle and easily broken.

The bones most commonly affected by osteoporosis are those in the hip, wrist and back (the vertebrae), particularly those in the mid-back.  Hip fractures are also common in people with osteoporosis, and can lead to immobility and hospitalization.

Many people do not have warning signs for osteoporosis until they have had it for a long period of time.   The first warning sign may be a sudden sharp pain in your back that seems to have come on for no reason.  

Some people with osteoporosis have other family members with it, which suggests that heredity may be a factor. Heredity also plays a role in a person's body type; having a small frame and bone structure may increase the chances of getting osteoporosis Other risk factors may include:

  • Diet. Bones need nourishment from calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorous. A poor diet lacking foods that contain these vitamins and minerals contributes to bone loss.
  • Life style factors such as smoking and alcohol use. Excessive use of alcohol or caffeine-containing products such as tea, coffee or some sodas can stop your body from absorbing calcium. Smoking also contributes to bone loss.
  • Hormone changes. Osteoporosis can also be linked to changes in hormones. Hormones are substances produced by the body that help different organs run normally.  Estrogen is also a hormone that is important to maintaining bone strength. Once a woman enters menopause her estrogen levels fall. This affects how her bones process calcium and may lead to a more rapid loss of bone. For the first five or six years following menopause a woman can lose 3% to 5% of her bone density each year. In men, low levels of the hormone testosterone may have the same effect.
  • Medication. Some medications, when taken in high doses, can influence how your body deals with calcium and so contribute to bone loss. These medications include cortisone/corticosteroids, anticoagulants, thyroid supplements, and some anti-convulsive drugs.
  • Other illnesses. Other illnesses or diseases, such over-active thyroid, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis may also cause bone loss.
  • Lack of exercise. Because bone is a living tissue it needs exercise to stay strong. Normally through the activities of daily living such as walking, bending, stretching, and exercising, forces are imposed upon the bones. Bone responds to these forces by restructuring itself and becoming stronger. If you are not active your bones will become weaker over time because there is nothing for them to respond to.
For more about osteoporosis click here.


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