Statistically speaking, you are more likely to have low bone density if you are a woman and if you are Caucasian. Your risk of low bone density and your fracture risk also increase as you age.

Unfortunately these facts have lead to a few common myths about osteoporosis.

First, people often assume that because 80% of osteoporosis sufferers are female, women must be physiologically predisposed to osteoporosis. To some extent this may be true. But there is good reason to believe that the difference in osteoporosis incidence between men and women is partially influenced by our roles in society. For example, women tend to go on crash diets more than men, and dieting makes it nearly impossible to consume sufficient nutrients for bone maintenance. More men than women engage in strenuous physical activity, and physical activity is essential to building bone.

A second common myth is that osteoporosis is an inevitable consequence of aging. While it’s true that bone naturally thins as we age, our bodies normally have a large enough surplus of bone mass to accommodate significant thinning without increasing our risk of fracture. With osteoporosis, the rate of bone loss exceeds what we would expect from aging, and the quality of bone also deteriorates. Excessive bone loss combined with poor bone quality increases your risk of fracture.

Even the effect of race isn’t as fixed as you might think. One study showed that the lower risk of osteoporosis in African-American women was at least in part attributable to a higher average muscle mass compared to Caucasian women — and muscle mass is something that any woman can improve through exercise.

Obviously you can’t change your sex, race, or age. But as you begin to understand the real causes of osteoporosis and fracture, it will become clear that you are not doomed to poor bone health because of your demographics. We’ve had great success helping women strengthen their bones, regardless of their race and age.

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