Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose calcium, become fragile, and are inclined to fracture more easily. Osteoporosis affects half of all women and one third of all men over the age of 60 in Australia. It is part of the normal ageing process.
While some bone thinning is normal as we get older, osteoporosis is not inevitable even if there is a family history. A special bone density test can detect osteoporosis.
Signs & Symptoms:
Osteoporosis has no obvious symptoms. The first indication may be a fracture. This is why osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease“.
Bones most commonly fractured include the hip, wrist, spine, pelvis and upper arm.
Multiple fractures can eventually lead to loss of height and some women develop a spinal deformity known as "dowager's hump".
A loss of 3cm of height, or stooping may indicate a spinal fracture.
- Biphosphonates - non-hormone medicines that slow down bone loss. If you are taking biphosphonates, eg Fosamax, Alendro, it is important to discuss any dental surgery plans with your doctor and to inform your dentist that you are on osteporosis medication as they may adversely affect jaw bones
- Vitamin D compounds - can increase calcium absorption from the intestines. Vitam D supplements of at least 400 IU per day is recommended if Vitamin D deficient or for people who do not get adequate sunlight exposure. It is also recommended for older adults
- Selective Oestrogen Receptor Modulation - non-hormone medicines that reduce bone loss and may increase bone density in women after menopause
- Hormone Replacement Therapy - has been shown to prevent bone loss and may increase bone density and reduce the risk of fracture
If you have osteoporosis, it is still important to take in plenty of calcium and have regular, gentle exercise. Osteoporosis can be treated at all ages—it is never too late.
Risk factors you cannot change:
- family history, eg. your mother or grandmother experienced fractures or had very stooped posture
- being thin and small boned
- being Caucasian or Asian
- advanced age
Risk factors you can change:
- too little calcium in your diet
- too little exercise or physical activity. You should try and do some moderate exercise for 30 minutes on all or most days
- a high intake of alcohol (more than two standard drinks per day for women, four for men)
- early menopause (before 45) or having your ovaries removed
- lengthy interruptions to your menstrual cycle, except pregnancy
- long-term use of steroid medications such as those used for asthma or rheumatoid arthritis
- anorexia nervosa