Your Doctor

World Osteoporosis Day

Osteoporosis is a silent disease with very few symptoms. Its silence is not a reflection of its importance though. This fragile bone disease that can cause painful and debilitating fractures (broken bones), sometimes resulting in premature death.

Osteoporosis originates from the Greek word poros and means porous or thinned bone. The disease is caused by loss of too much bone mass, production of too little new bone tissue, or usually, a combination of both. 

There are around 300,000 fragility fractures every year in the UK, and many of these could be prevented with earlier diagnosis and treatment. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, and above the age of 50 the risk and rate of bone decay accelerates.

Preventing osteoporosis

• Ensure a nutritious diet and adequate calcium intake, this is mainly in the form of dairy produce and oily fish such as salmon and sardines.

• Avoid under-nutrition, particularly the effects of severe weight-loss diets and eating disorders.

• Maintain an adequate supply of vitamin D (at least 800-1000iU per day). Safe sun exposure each day is a great natural way to top up your vitamin D.

• Participate in regular weight-bearing activity e.g. Running, dancing, zumba.

• Strengthen you muscles through yoga, pilates and weights. This will improve balance and posture thus reducing your risk of falls.

• Avoid smoking.

• Avoid heavy drinking and caffeine.

What are the risk factors and what should can be done?

If you have a family history of osteoporosis, premature menopause (under the age of 45 years), use steroids long term, have a history of falls or have sustained an ‘easy fracture’ it may be worth seeing your GP for assessment. Anyone above the age of 65 (for women) and 75 (for men) is also at risk.

There are a number of ways they can investigate you from bloods, risk scoring and bone density scanning (DEXA scan).

The good news is if you are found to have the early signs of osteoporosis (osteopenia) or established osteoporosis there is treatment available to help build back the bone, and slow the rate of further decay.

See the World Osteoporosis website for more useful information.