Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become week and fragile, breaking easily even as a result of a minor fall, a sneeze or a sudden movement. This type of break of a bone is called an osteoporotic fracture.
Worldwide 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men aged 50 years or over will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture. In the UK alone it is estimated that around 3 million people have osteoporosis.
A fracture occurs worldwide every 3 seconds and most commonly affect the wrists, hips and spine, however, other bones can fracture such as an arm, rib or the pelvis. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can be life-threatening and a major cause of pain and long term disability.
Because osteoporosis is a silent condition with no obvious symptoms, millions of people worldwide who are at a high risk of fractures, remain undiagnosed and untreated.
So what can you do to protect yourself from developing osteoporosis?
By taking early action to protect your bone and muscle health, you can set the foundation for a healthy, mobile and independent future.
Just follow these 5 basic steps:
1. Exercise regularly
A combination of weight-bearing, muscle strengthening and balance training exercises are best to prevent the development of osteoporosis.
- Weight-bearing exercises are any activities performed standing up such as walking, running and dancing, as the pressure of your body’s weight through the bones of your feet and legs makes them work harder and become stronger.
- Muscle strengthening exercises are any activities that require your muscles to work that little bit harder than usual such as lifting weights. Even doing one’s housework and carrying shopping can contribute to keeping your bone healthy by challenging the tendons that attach muscles to bones, which in turn stimulates bone strength! Especially vigorous and high impact exercise though is generally contra-indicated in more advanced osteoporosis.
- Balance training with exercises such as Tai Chi and reducing trip hazards at home and when going out, can be very useful to reduce the risk of falling in the first place!
2. Ensure you have a diet rich in bone-healthy nutrients
This is a diet rich in calcium, proteins, vitamin D and other nutrients that are important for your bone health. Safe exposure to sunshine will also help your body to get enough needed vitamin D.
For a detailed list of these foods please click on the National Osteoporosis Foundation link https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/nutrition/ or call in to the practice to collect a leaflet.
3. Avoid negative lifestyle habits
By maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding smoking and excessive drinking.
4. Find out if you have other risk factors that predispose you to develop osteoporosis
- Some people are more at risk to develop osteoporosis:
- Women are 4 times more likely to develop osteoporosis then men due to diminished levels of bone-protecting oestrogen hormones after the menopause.People over the age of 75 have a 50% chance of developing osteoporosis.
- Genetics and ethnicity play a strong part and if one of your parents has broken a hip due to osteoporosis, you are more likely to do the same. Also, people of Caucasian or Asian descent are more likely to develop osteoporosis whereas people of African-Caribbean origins have stronger bones and are less likely to develop the condition.
- Low body weight and those with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 19Kg/m2 are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
- People who have already suffered an osteoporotic fracture are more likely to break a bone again.
- Smokers are at a higher risk as well as people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol. In both cases, the higher the consumption is, the greater the risk.
- People taking or who have taken certain types of drugs known as glucocorticoids which are used to treat certain medical conditions, can be at a higher risk. Here again, the risk is dependent on the exposure in quantity and time to the drug.
- People suffering from some medical conditions such as hypogonadism or early menopause (menopause arising before the age of 45), chronic malnutrition or malabsorption, chronic liver disease, type 1 diabetes, untreated long-standing hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis (but not osteoarthritis), bony metastasis from cancer, multiple myeloma, Cushing’s disease and osteogenesis imperfecta in adults, are all conditions strongly associated with osteoporosis.
5. Get tested and treated if necessary
Talk to your doctor and ask for testing. If you are at high risk, you might need medication to ensure optimum protection against fractures. Drug treatments to reduce the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis can be prescribed by your GP and depend on a number of factors including your age, sex and medical history.
As an osteopath, my training enables me to recognise if you are at risk of developing osteoporosis and if so, to refer you to your doctor for further investigations such as a bone mineral density scan, known as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA scan).
Osteopaths can also help you understand your condition better and give you advice on your diet, exercise and lifestyle to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis related fracture.
Throughout October, the practice will be making available information and leaflets produced by the National Osteoporosis Society.
Feel free to pop into the clinic to pick up a leaflet or make an appointment.
To find out more about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, do not hesitate to contact me. You can also contact the National Osteoporosis Society via their confidential helpline (01761 473287) or by visiting their website at www.nos.org.uk as well as consulting the International Osteoporosis Foundation at www.worldosteoporosisday.org.
Make sure you protect your future mobility and quality of life by taking early action for prevention!
Love your bones, protect your future!