I would now like to to raise everyone’s awareness of this condition and continue my theme on joint health. As a practising osteopath and with a previous career in nursing, I have seen a considerable number of patients with osteoporosis, some of whom are undiagnosed until they develop an osteoporotic fracture. Consequently, when patients consult me for help, one of the many questions I ask myself is: What is the likelihood of them suffering from osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and more likely to fracture. It often gives no warning, with the first indication being pain from a fracture. The most common areas for fractures to occur are the spine, wrist and hips.
Bones grow and repair very quickly in childhood but a natural part of ageing is that from about the age of 35, we gradually start to lose bone density, leading to osteoporosis in some people.
In the UK, approximately 3 million people are affected by osteoporosis and 50% of British women and 20% of men over the age of 50 suffer a fracture due to poor bone health.
Prevention is better than cure
Due to the silent nature of this condition and the complications that can occur following osteoporotic fractures, it is far better to look after your bones or at least seek early diagnosis and treatment, before you become symptomatic.
So what are some of the causes?
- Your genes largely determine the health of your bones and so it is important that you are aware of whether there is a family history.
- Osteoporosis is far more common in women, as a result of reduced oestrogen levels after the menopause, and those who experience the menopause before the age of 45 are even more likely to develop this condition.
- Taking long-term medication that affects the strength of your bones, such as oral steroids, increases your risk.
- You are more susceptible if you have a condition that affects the absorption of the vital nutrients in the gut.
If you feel you are at risk, you can have a bone density scan (DEXA scan) which is relatively inexpensive.
Tips on avoiding osteoporosis
- Make sure you eat a diet containing plenty of calcium (low fat dairy products, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach and tinned sardines/salmon, containing bones).
- You also need a diet containing vitamin D (oily fish and eggs) but our main source is from the sun. The recommendation is to expose your bare arms and face for 10 minutes a day, without a sunscreen.
- If you feel your diet is low in these nutrients or you are unable to get the recommended sunshine, you could take supplements. I do keep a stock of Lambert’s supplements such as Osteoguard, CalAbsorb and chewable vitamin D at The Odiham Clinic.
- Take regular weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, dancing and tennis.
- Stop smoking and avoid excessive alcohol intake.
- Keep your salt intake down and avoid fizzy drinks.
- Avoid being so underweight that your periods stop as this can also increase your risk of osteoporosis
So start thinking about how healthy your bones are by taking the National Osteoporosis Society quiz today.
Reference: van Staa TP, Dennison EM, Leufkens HG and Cooper C., (2001) Epidemiology of fractures in England and Wales. Bone 29: 517-522.