Osteoporosis literally means "bones with holes" and is a condition where your bones become brittle. This occurs over time as your bones lose vital minerals more quickly than the body can replace them.
Your bones are made up of hard, living tissue that requires calcium and other minerals to give them the strength and thickness (bone mass or density) they need.
Developing osteoporosis, where your bones become brittle due to mineral loss, means you more likely to break or fracture – even as a result of a minor bump or fall, or even without an injury. And, once you’ve had an osteoporotic fracture, your risk of further fracture is greatly increased. This can be severely debilitating.
Osteoporosis is common, affecting one in two women and one in three men over the age of 60. However, some simple lifestyle measures that you can do at any age can help boost your bone density, keep your bones strong, and decrease your risk of osteoporosis to prevent fractures.
You may be at risk of developing osteoporosis without knowing it. Many people discover they have osteoporosis only after experiencing a fracture. A good starting point is to discuss the risks factors for osteoporosis and fractures with your doctor when you next visit.
Understanding your fracture risk can help you and your doctor decide on what you can do to minimise your risk, such as changes to your lifestyle habits or calcium and vitamin D supplementation.
The daily intakes (RDIs) of calcium for adults as recommended by the National Health & Medical Research Council:
|Aged 19 and over: 1,000mg||Aged 19 and over, including when pregnant or breastfeeding: 1,000mg|
|Aged over 70: 1,300mg||Aged over 50: 1,300 mg|
Your doctor may recommend having your bones tested check if you have osteoporosis.
Experts agree the most accurate and useful test for osteoporosis is to have the density of your bones checked by a type of X-ray known as a DXA (“dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry” or DEXA) scan, which tests the bone mineral density of multiple bones in the body.
This test is usually suitable if you are over 60, have reached menopause and not had a menstrual period for six months (for women), are losing height (shrinking) or suffered a fracture even though the cause seems relatively slight (a stumble or fall from a standing height, for example). The test is painless and involves a very low dose of radiation.
Talk to your doctor to see if this test is right for you.
Ask your doctor about osteoporosis if you have:
There are medications that can help reduce bone loss and reduce your risk of breaking a bone. Doctors usually start by prescribing one of the medications in a class known as bisphosphonates, or other medicines called denosumab and strontium ranelate. If these are not suitable for you, there are less-commonly used medicines your doctor may recommend.
Each medicine causes different side effects, and depending on the person, some are more effective than others in lowering the chance of future bone breaks. Whichever medication you and your doctor choose, it’s recommended you combine it with calcium and vitamin D supplements for it to work best.
About 50 percent of people with one fracture due to osteoporosis will have another. As well as following dietary and medication guidelines, the following could help you avoid fractures:
Garvan Institute Fracture Risk Calculator
This Fracture Risk Calculator was developed using data from a long-running Australian study on how fracture risk can impact on quality of life and even survival, and helps to estimate your risk of fracture.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0 - National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2007-8 (Reissue) [online]. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. 2009 [Accessed 15 Aug 2012] Available from: http://abs.gov.au
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International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). Osteoporosis [online]. Nyon, Switzerland: IOF. [Accessed 15 Aug 2012] Available from: http://www.iofbonehealth.org/
National Health & Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values - Calcium. [online] Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. [Accessed 15 Aug 2012] Available from: http://www.nrv.gov.au
Osteoporosis Australia. About osteoporosis [online]. Glebe, NSW: Osteoporosis Australia. [Last updated Jul 2011, accessed 15 Aug 2012] Available from: http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/
Pocock N. Osteoporosis [online]. Canberra, ACT: National Health Call Centre Network. [Last reviewed Mar 2007, accessed 15 Aug 2012] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/osteoporosis
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Last published date: 31 August 2012