Osteoporosis Awareness Month
May 2016 is osteoporosis awareness and prevention month. Our osteopath Alexandra Luzzato is here to present some facts on this common condition.
Osteoporosis occurs when the usually strong support struts that makes up the inside of most bones becomes thinner, causing bones to become fragile and break easily.
Osteoporosis is often a silent condition, giving no pain or other symptoms to alert you to the fact until a bone breaks following a minor bump or fall.
In the UK, it is estimated that around 3 million people have osteoporosis. One in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 are expected to break a bone in such a way, most commonly in the wrist, spine or hip which can result in further problems such as chronic pain and loss of mobility.
Some people are more at risk to develop osteoporosis:
- Women are 4x 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 plays 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 a fractured bone due to its fragility (rather than a severe trauma) 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.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom! There is a lot you can do to prevent the condition, and to reduce your chance of breaking a bone if you do get it.
- Diet – a healthy and balanced diet is essential to provide all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that your bones need including calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin C.
- Exercise – the best exercises for building and maintaining strong bones are weight-bearing and muscle strengthening activities.
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 worker that little bit harder than usual such as lifting weights. Even doing housework and carrying shopping can contribute to keeping your bones 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 exercise and lifestyle adjustments – reducing trip hazards at home and when going out as well as improving one’s balance with exercises such as Tai Chi can be very useful to reduce the risk of falling in the first place! As smoking has a toxic effect on the cells that help build bone, stopping smoking would definitely be a good move, as would ensure that alcohol intake is limited.
- 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.
Your osteopath’s training enables him or her 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 May, the practice will make available, free of charge, 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 with your osteopath.
To find out more about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, contact the National Osteoporosis Society via their confidential helpline (01761 473287) or by visiting their website at: www.nos.org.uk