Osteoporosis will be responsible for 165,000 broken bones in Australia this year. That’s a lot of fractures – and many of them could be prevented.
What is osteoporosis, exactly?
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones, making them weak and more likely to break. It develops when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, making bones less dense and more brittle.
Loss of bone density is a normal part of ageing from about the age of 35. When you have osteoporosis, your bone density is extremely low and even a relatively minor fall can result in a fracture.
Who is at risk?
Over 1 million men and women in Australia have osteoporosis. Women are at greater risk of developing the condition because their oestrogen levels fall rapidly during menopause, causing their bones to lose calcium and other minerals at a faster rate.
Risk factors for men and women include:
- family history of osteoporosis
- low-calcium diet (you need 1,000 mg a day, or 1,200 mg a day if you’re a woman over 50 or a man over 70)
- low vitamin D levels (your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium)
- medical history
- lifestyle factors (including alcohol intake, smoking and weight)
How is it detected?
Osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as a ‘silent disease’ because often there are no symptoms before you suffer a broken bone. The most common fractures are to the:
Fractures can cause chronic pain, and the risk of further breaks rises with each new fracture. This ‘cascade effect’ is one of the reasons that it’s essential to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
If your doctor suspects you have osteoporosis or are at a high risk of developing it, they can refer you for a bone density scan.
Can it be treated?
Your doctor can help you manage your osteoporosis by:
- prescribing medicine to strengthen your bones
- making sure you’re getting the right amounts of calcium, vitamin D and exercise
- continuing to monitor your bone health.
Family Doctors Plus
We have a special interest in women’s health at Family Doctors Plus, and we are experienced at managing all aspects of chronic conditions including osteoporosis. If you suspect you may have osteoporosis or are concerned about your risk of developing the disease in future, make an appointment with us today.