by Ruby Hoyland

What is Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones weaker and less dense.

Osteoporotic bones fracture more easily than normal bone. Even a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. Half of all women and one-third of men over 60 in Australia will have a fracture due to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis and fractures are major causes of injury, long-term disability and even death in older Australians. One fifth of people who suffer a hip fracture will die within six months. Of those who don't die, 50 per cent will be unable to walk without help or stay in their own homes. Some may even need full-time nursing care.

Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease, as there are usually no signs or symptoms until someone has a fracture. For this reason, it is believed that it is under diagnosed. Many people may have osteoporosis and not realize it.

Any bone can be affected but the most common are bones in the hip, spine, wrist, ribs, pelvis and upper arm.

Fun facts

Osteo = bone + Porosis = porous. Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone’.

Risk factors

Risk factors you can change - These are things in your life that you need to change:

· Do little or no physical activity

· Are a smoker

· Have a high alcohol intake

· Have low body weight

· Have low calcium intake

· Have low vitamin D levels

Risk factors you can't change – even though you cannot change these things, it is important to know that they may affect you:

· Have a parent or grandparent who has osteoporosis

· Had an eating disorder

· Are over 60 years of age

· Have rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver disease or kidney failure

· Are a male with low levels of testosterone

Preventing osteoporosis – reduce your risk

Preventing osteoporosis is important. Although there are treatments for osteoporosis, there is no cure. You can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis and having a fracture by:

· Enjoying a healthy balanced diet

· Having lots of Vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium. The best source of vitamin D is from safe sunlight exposure.

· Being physically active

· Asking your doctor if any medicines you take may be causing bone loss

· Not smoking

· Drinking less alcohol

Osteoporosis Awareness brought to you by the dairy godmothers

Menopause and osteoporosis

Menopause means the time around a woman's last period. Most Australian women reach menopause between the ages of 45-55, but it can happen earlier.

From about the age of 45 years, women may begin to lose bone at the rate of about 1-2% per year. After menopause, oestrogen levels keep decreasing, and this speeds up bone loss to about 2-4% per year. This stage of bone loss caused by menopause may last up to 15-20 years. The amount varies, but some can lose as much as 30% of their bone during those years.

Men and osteoporosis

Men do not lose bone as fast as women do. They gradually lose bone from the age of 70. This is part of the aging process.

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