Almost one in every three Australians has fragile bones and most are unaware of it.
Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose their density and become weak. Weak bones are at risk of being easily fractured (broken). Once a fracture occurs your risk of having another increases dramatically.
Are you at risk?
The risk of osteoporosis increases with age in men and women but is highest in women after menopause. You may be at risk if you:
- Have a family history of osteoporosis
- Had a fracture after a minor injury or fall
- Do not get enough calcium or vitamin D
- Do not do much exercise
- Have a low weight or take corticosteroids
- Are a smoker or drink excessive alcohol
You can find out your risk of having a fracture at www.garvan.org.au/bone-fracture-risk.
In most cases, osteoporosis causes no symptoms until a fracture occurs. Sometimes a fracture is silent. Your doctor may order an X-ray of the spine to detect a past silent fracture. To find out if you have low bone density, a bone mineral density (BMD) test is performed to measure your ‘T score’. A T score of greater than -1.0 is normal. In osteoporosis, the bone density is much lower with a T score of less than -2.5.
Effective treatment is available
Adequate calcium is important for strong bones either from the diet (mainly dairy foods) or supplements. You can calculate your calcium intake at www.iofbonehealth.org.
Getting adequate vitamin D intake from sunshine or supplements, reducing alcohol and stopping smoking also help. Regular weight-bearing exercise such as walking, Tai chi and gentle weights can also improve bone health.
A number of effective osteoporosis treatments are available. Ongoing changes to the PBS mean that more people may now be eligible for PBS funded treatment.
For more information: speak to your doctor or go to www.osteoporosis.org.au.
This article is sponsored by MSD (Australia)
- Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
- For up to date information, speak to your doctor.