Osteoporosis is largely preventable. Targeted health interventions now could drastically curb the incidence of osteoporosis and fracture morbidity, which currently stands at a fracture every eight minutes and increasing.

  • One woman in two, and one man in three, over 60 will suffer a bone fracture because of osteoporosis.
  • The most common fracture is the hip and one in two people will require long term nursing care as a result.
  • One in five will die from complications within 12 months of fracturing their hip.
  • By 2020 one in three hospital beds will be taken up by people with osteoporosis.
  • The cost of osteoporosis to the community is estimated at $2 billion per annum in health costs.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects women and men. Over 1 million people in Australia have osteoporosis.

Women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because of the rapid decline in oestrogen levels during menopause. When oestrogen levels decrease, the bones lose calcium and other minerals at a much faster rate. As a result bone loss of approximately 2% per year occurs for several years after menopause.

man_newMen also lose bone as they age, however testosterone levels in men decline more gradually so their bone mass remains adequate till later in life.

However, both men and women may have certain ‘risk factors’ that make them more likely to develop osteoporosis. People should discuss risk factors with their doctor and anyone over 50 with risk factors may require a bone density scan.

Your family history:

Bone health may be strongly inherited. Consider your family history of osteoporosis. It is important to note if anyone in your family (particularly parents or siblings) had diagnosed osteoporosis, sustained fractures from minor falls or rapidly lost height as 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) and this increases to 1,300 mg per day in 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 increase impact on your bone health

  • Corticosteroids – commonly used for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
  • Low hormone levels
    in women: delayed puberty, 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 antipsychotics
  • The following symptoms may also indicate an increased risk of osteoporosis

Lifestyle factors:

  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Weight – thin body build or excessive weight (recent studies suggest that hormones associated with obesity may impact bones)

Approved by Osteoporosis Australia Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee

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