The information below is courtesy of Osteoporosis Australia. Visit the Osteoporosis Australia website for more information.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, causing a loss of bone thickness (bone density or mass), making them more prone to breakage.
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
Women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because of the rapid decline in oestrogen levels during menopause. When oestrogen levels decrease, bones lose calcium and other minerals at a much faster rate.
Men also lose bone as they age, however testosterone levels in men decline more gradually so their bone mass remains adequate till later in life.
Your family history
Bone health can be strongly inherited so consider your family history of osteoporosis. It is important to note if anyone in your family (particularly parents or siblings) has ever been diagnosed with osteoporosis, broken a bone from a minor fall or rapidly lost height. These can indicate low bone density.
Your calcium and vitamin D levels
Low calcium intake – adults require 1,000 mg per day (preferably through diet) which increases to 1,300 mg per day for women over 50 and men over 70.
Low vitamin D levels – a lack of sun exposure can mean you are not getting enough vitamin D which your body needs to absorb calcium.
Your medical history
Certain conditions and medications can impact on your bone health.
- Corticosteroids – commonly used for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
- Low hormone levels – in women: early menopause; in men: low testosterone
- Thyroid conditions – over active thyroid or parathyroid
- Conditions leading to malabsorption eg: coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease
- Some chronic diseases eg: rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver or kidney disease
- Some medicines for breast cancer, prostate cancer, epilepsy and some antidepressants
- Lifestyle factors
- Low levels of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Weight – thin body build or excessive weight (recent studies suggest that hormones associated with obesity may impact bones)
As bones become thinner and less dense, even a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. A ‘fracture’ is a complete or partial break in a bone.
Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, but the most common sites are the hip, spine and wrist.
Fractures in the spine due to osteoporosis can result in height loss or changes in posture.
Osteoporosis usually has no symptoms until a fracture occurs this is why osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’.
- Adequate calcium intake
- Maintain good vitamin D levels (to help absorb calcium)
- Regular exercise