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Tuesday, 25 September 2018 08:37

Osteoporosis Featured

As the Australian population ages, one of the most significant health problems we face is osteoporosis. In 2017 in WA alone 14% of the population over the age of 50 had osteoporosis. The figures become even more alarming over the age of 70 with 43% of women and 13% of men having osteoporosis.

But what is osteoporosis and why is it so concerning?

Our bones turnover their minerals and structure continually with an ongoing process of absorption of old bone and production of new bone. It is estimated that every 7 years the human skeleton is completely renewed by this process.

Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density as this process of bone turnover is tipped in favour of absorption of bone. This process occurs as we age, is accelerated in women after the menopause and some diseases and lifestyle choices can encourage bone loss.

The less dense bone of osteoporosis is brittle and prone to fracturing even with minimal trauma. In severe cases even just bearing weight through a bone can cause it to fracture. Common sites for these fractures are the hips, pelvis, wrist and spine.

The Cost:

In WA in 2017 there were 46 such fractures per day in older adults. These fractures lead to pain, disability, hospitalisation, loss of independence and even death in people at a vulnerable stage of life. In WA $211 million was spent in treating these fracture alone but the financial cost is much higher when all resultant disability is considered.

Should you be checked?

Osteoporosis is a silent disease as there are no symptoms until a fracture appears and often by this time the disease is far advanced with a significant risk of further fractures. So it is important to consider your risk of this disease before this happens. This applies to both women and men.

Any person over the age of 50 who breaks a bone from a relatively minor accident should be fully assessed for osteoporosis.

Anyone over the age of 50 with risk factors for osteoporosis should also be assessed. These risk factors include:

  • A family history of osteoporosis or its effects
  • An early menopause
  • Thin body build
  • Excessive alcohol use or smoking
  • Low levels or physical activity
  • Low levels of calcium in the diet
  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medicines like prednisolone
  • Many chronic diseases increase osteoporosis risk and warrant discussion with your doctor.

There are a number of strategies to lower your risk of osteoporosis. An excellent resource for further information can be found at:

https://www.osteoporosis.org.au

Your GP is best place to advise you of your individual risk, the ways of testing for osteoporosis and the various useful treatments that are available. At Busselton Medical Practice this is a very common condition we deal with by offering prevention advice, diagnosis and long term management of what is a growing chronic disease problem in our community.