Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone’. It’s a condition that causes bones to become thin and fragile, decreasing bone strength and making them more prone to fractures. It is often called the ‘silent disease’ as bone loss occurs without any external symptoms.

                       
   NORMAL BONE                                                           OSTEOPOROTIC BONE

The result is that bones break easily, even following a minor bump or fall. These fractures (bone breaks) can occur in any part of the body, most commonly the wrist, spine, shoulder and hip.

Fractures due to osteoporosis are a major cause of pain and often means that there is long-term disability and loss of independence among older adults. Osteoporosis can even result in premature death.

At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will suffer from a fragility fracture due to osteoporosis.

Women are at greater risk of osteoporosis due to the rapid decline in oestrogen levels after menopause. When oestrogen levels decrease, bone tissue is progressively lost and bones become less dense and more fragile. Men also lose bone as they age, but less rapidly than women.

Awareness of osteoporosis risk and early diagnosis are key to the treatment of osteoporosis.  Both women and men may have certain ‘risk factors’ that can make them more likely to develop osteoporosis. Some of the common risk factors are as follows:

  • History of previous fractures
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Low body weight with a BMI <20
  • Some medical conditions can increase your risk of osteoporosis such as coeliac disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney and liver disease
  • Long term medication use such as corticosteroids and cancer medications
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake

If you are over 50 and have any of the above risk factors you may have low bone density – ask your doctor about a bone density scan (a painless way to find out if your bones are fragile).

Management and Treatment of Osteoporosis

The good news is that there are many ways to prevent and manage osteoporosis at every stage of life.

Children and adolescents need to BUILD maximum peak bone mass.

Adults need to MAINTAIN healthy bones and avoid premature bone loss.

Older people need to SUSTAIN mobility and independence.

To build strong bones throughout your lifetime and maintain bone tissue as you get older we need to:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat well
  • Create healthy lifestyle habits

Ideally you should aim to do at least 30 minutes of weight- bearing physical activity every day. The best exercises for bones are ones that work your muscles against gravity. Some examples are walking briskly, jogging, Pilates, dancing, low-impact aerobics or golf.

Resistance training or muscle strengthening exercises that suit your needs and abilities will help improve coordination and balance. This helps to maintain mobility and reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

This October 20th is World Osteoporosis Day so a great opportunity to check to see if you have any risk factors and make the first steps to help maintain your bone density and prevent any chance of either developing or worsening osteoporosis.

Take charge of your bone health today