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Osteoporosis is a common condition which results from a loss of bone mass producing a change in bone structure. This makes the bone more fragile and raises the risk of fracture. It can affect both men and women and is more common over 50. Common fragility fractures due to osteoporosis are wrist, vertebrae and hip fracture. Around 75,000 people in the UK suffer a hip fracture each year with an average age of 81 years and the ratio is 3 women to 1 man. There is a recognised relationship between those in their 50s suffering a wrist fracture during a fall and the likelihood of subsequent hip fracture in later life. If you have such a fracture you may be assessed for your future fracture risk and possibly referred for a scan to assess whether there is any loss of bone mass.
Risk factors for the development of osteoporosis include those you cannot change such as increasing age, menopause and some hereditary factors. Risk factors that you may be able to change include smoking, alcohol, dietary factors – particularly vitamin D and calcium, sedentary lifestyle, some medication and hormone levels such as low oestrogen after the menopause. It should be noted that there are a number of secondary causes which might for example affect absorption of Vit D and calcium such as coeliac’s disease.
You can help prevent bone loss by eating a healthy diet with attention to foods rich in vitamin D and calcium. Taking a Vitamin D supplement is now recommended particularly for older people. Smoking should be avoided and alcohol limited to recommended levels.
Being physically active is really imortant, especially weight bearing exercise. One of the best ways to promote a stronger skeleton is strength work, particularly resistance exercise. It’s important to know that our skeleton is living tissue and is continually remodelling itself according to the demands we place upon it. So, if we lead a sedentary lifestyle then there is no stimulus for the skeleton to maintain strength whereas if we are continually doing a variety of activity it will be prompted to develop accordingly to support us.
Menopause and the reduction in oestrogen is a major factor in the development of osteoporosis in women. Many women are prescribed HRT for menopausal symptoms and the good news is that studies show that HRT reduces fracture risk.
There are treatments available should a diagnosis of osteoporosis be made and your medical practitioner would discuss these with you.
It’s never too early to start looking after your bones. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.
A river cuts through rock, not because of its power but because of its persistence