Osteoporosis is a chronic condition that weakens bones over time, making them brittle and more likely to break. Osteoporosis is quite common and can be very debilitating. It affects both men and women and two in every three Australians over 50 are affected by osteoporosis or have thin bones that can lead to the condition.
Women are at greater risk after menopause due to declining oestrogen levels. When oestrogen decreases bones lose calcium at a much faster rate. Men also lose bone as they age but as testosterone levels decline more gradually, bone mass remains adequate for longer.
Unfortunately very early stages of osteoporosis are generally symptom free. Once bones have been weakened by osteoporosis there may be signs and symptoms that include:
• Back pain
• Loss of height over time
• A stooped posture
• A bone that breaks more easily than expected
Unchangeable risk factors
• Your sex – women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men
• Age – as we age our risk increases
• Race – there is a greater risk among people who are white or are of Asian descent
• Family history – having a parent or a sibling with osteoporosis increases the risk
• Body size – men and women who are of smaller build tend to have a higher risk as they have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
• Low calcium intake
• History of eating disorders
• Gastrointestinal surgery
Steroids and medications
Osteoporosis has been associated with medications used to prevent:
• Gastric reflux
• Transplant rejection
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Celiac disease
• Kidney or liver disease
• Multiple myeloma
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Tobacco use
Treatments for osteoporosis include diet and lifestyle changes that can include exercise and an increased intake of Vitamin D and calcium. Medications to prevent the loss of bone mass may also be prescribed and in some cases, hormone therapy may be recommended.
Some useful links:
Healthy Bones Australia –
Carer’s Circle article on Can a slumped posture affect longevity? –
Carer’s Circle article on Your parent’s doctor – your partner in caring –
Carer’s Circle article on Why your ageing parent should get the right dose of vitamin D –
Photo credit: doctor with a patient’s x-ray film on Rawpixel
A version of this article originally appeared on Careseekers blog – Reproduced with permission.