Osteoporosis is a medical condition which weakens your bones, causing them to become fragile and more likely to break. The condition affects more than three million people across the United Kingdom, with over 500,000 people receiving hospital treatment for fragility fractures every year as a result of the condition.
The National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) says that it women who are most at risk of osteoporosis:
Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis because bone loss becomes more rapid for several years after the menopause, when sex hormone levels decrease. In addition, women tend to have smaller bones than men and in general live longer, with loss of bone tissue continuing for longer, making fragility fractures more likely.”
This does not mean that men cannot develop osteoporosis though. NOS state that one in five men break a bone in their body after the age of 50 because of low bone strength.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition which weakens your bones, making them more fragile and more likely to break. It is a condition that develops slowly over time, often taking several years before it is diagnosed or felt by the sufferer.
Diagnosis is often only given when a minor fall of sudden impact has caused a bone fracture – with the most common injuries being wrist or hip fractures. Osteoporosis is often not painful until this fracture occurs.
Losing bone is a natural part of the ageing process, however, some people lose density faster than normal – leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fracture injuries.
Up until the age of 35, there is a balance between the amount of bone that is removed and the amount of bone that is laid down during the process of bone remodeling. During this process, the older bone tissue is broken down by specialist cells known as osteoclasts and are rebuilt using bone-building cells called osteoblasts.
Once you’re over the age of 35, the amount of bone that is removed and the amount that is laid down starts to become unbalanced. This causes the amount of bone tissue to decrease. NOS describe this process in the following way:
The cortical ‘shell’ thins and the struts that make up the inner structure become thinner and sometimes break down. This results in the holes in the honeycomb structure becoming larger – hence the description ‘osteoporosis’, literally meaning ‘porous bone’.”
This process helps to explain why bones become more fragile in older age. Women are more at risk of the condition due to the fact that they lose bone density rapidly in the first few years after going through menopause.
There are several other factories which can increase the risk of you developing Osteoporosis:
- Heavy drinking and smoking.
- Low body mass index (BMI).
- A family history of Osteoporosis.
- Long-term use of high-dose oral corticosteroids.
- Medical conditions such as inflammatory, hormone-related and malabsorption problems.
- Having Rheumatoid Arthritis.
If there is a chance that you might have osteoporosis, your doctor can make an online assessment using programmes such as FRAX and Q-Fracture. Tools such as these can help to predict a person’s risk of fracture between the ages of 40 and 90. The algorithms in these programmes give a 10-year probability of hip fractures and a 10-year probability of a major fracture in the spine, hip, shoulder or forearm.
It may also be the case that your doctor refers you for a DEXA scan, which will measure your bone mineral density. This scan is a short, painless procedure according to the NHS, which will take around five minutes to complete.
Your bone mineral density can be compared to the bone mineral density of a healthy young person and somebody who is the same age and sex as you. The difference is then calculated as a standard deviation (SD) and is known as a T score.
SD is a measure of variability based on an average or expected value. A T score of:
- Above -1 SD is normal.
- Between -1 and -2.5 SD is defined as decreased bone mineral density compared with peak bone mass.
- Below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis.
The treatment for osteoporosis is based on the treating and preventing of fractures. The decision about whether you need treatment depends on your risk of fracture. This will be based on a number of factors such as your age, sex and the results of your DEXA scan.
You may be given medication to help strengthen your bones. There are a number of medications available that can help to treat the condition, and your doctor will ensure that you choose the right medicines for your condition. Most forms of medication used are given as a tablet or injection.
Calcium and vitamin D are both very important when it comes to the well-being of your bones and should be included in a healthy, balanced diet. It is advised that we have at 700 milligrams of calcium each day, as well as 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
For women going through menopause, hormone replacement therapy is sometimes suggested as it can control symptoms. This form of therapy has also been shown to maintain bone density and reduce the risk of a fracture during treatment. It is important that you discuss this option with your doctor.
How to prevent Osteoporosis
Although the ageing process is inevitable, there are ways to reduce the chance of osteoporosis and keep your bones healthy. Ways of preventing the condition include:
Taking part in regular exercise sessions is essential if you are going to keep your body in-check. The NHS advise that adults aged 19 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling, every week.
To help improve your bone density you should focus particularly on weight-bearing and resistance exercises, such as press-ups and weightlifting. It is also suggested that adults between the aforementioned ages do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. In these sessions, you should work all of the major muscle groups in your body, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, arms and shoulders.
As with most medical conditions, having a healthy, balanced diet is a great prevention technique. Eating healthily can help you to avoid other serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and forms of cancer.
As previously mentioned in this article, calcium and vitamin D is particularly important in the fight against osteoporosis. Examples of foods which are rich in calcium include dried fruit, yoghurt, tofu and leafy green vegetables.
Examples of food which contain a good source of vitamin D include egg yolks, liver, red meat, oily fish, fortified foods such as fat spreads and dietary supplements.
No Smoking and Less Drinking
Osteoporosis is one of the many, many conditions which can be triggered by smoking. Research has shown that smoking can slow down the work of the bone-building cells, and can result in earlier menopause for women. There is a special quit smoking on the NHS Choices website that can advise you on how to quit.
Drinking too much alcohol is also a risk factor for fractures and osteoporosis. Even minor intoxication can be associated with an increased risk of suffering from a fall when you’re older. The best way of reducing the risk here is to stick to the government’s recommended alcohol limit of no more than 14 units per week.
Plenty of Sunshine
Between the end of March and the end of September, sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D and therefore helps your body to absorb calcium. In turn, this will help to strengthen your bones and your teeth.
Take the Test
On the NOS website, you will find a risk assessment test for this condition. The assessment will ask you questions about you, including your lifestyle choices and healthcare. Once you have answered all of the questions, a personalised report will be sent to you alongside some useful recommendations on where to find help and how to improve your bone health.
It is advised that you need to especially check for osteoporosis if you are over the age of 50 and have broken a bone.
Having osteoporosis qualifies you for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm system from Lifeline24. HMRC state that a product which has been “designed or adapted for a disability” qualifies for VAT exemption.
For a person to qualify they must meet certain criteria set by HMRC. These criteria state that the customer must have a long-term illness, a terminal illness or a disability to qualify.
Staying safe at home
A personal alarm can help protect people if they suffer from medical conditions such as osteoporosis. If you do suffer from a fall at home or in the garden (up to 100 metres from the base unit), all you need to do is press the red button on your pendant. This will send an alert through to our 24-hour Response Team, who will respond immediately and arrange for help to come to your home.
For more information on purchasing one of our life-saving personal alarms, please speak to one of our friendly advisors on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.