“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is an aphorism that does not apply to our bones!
Osteoporosis is a condition caused by an imbalance between natural mechanisms breaking down bone and rebuilding them. As a result, the bones become weaker and less dense. By the time a person suffers a break/fracture, this process has already been going on for a long time. The time to fix it was before the break!
According to Healthy Bones Australia, over 1 million Australians have osteoporosis, and two-thirds of people over the age of 50 years have either osteoporosis or osteopenia (where the bone density is less than normal, but not as fragile as in osteoporosis).
Common risk factors for osteoporosis are
• Age (women of 50 and men over 70 years old)
• Excessive alcohol
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Insufficient vitamin D (eg. Lack of sun exposure)
• Low calcium intake (see Calcium & Bone Health – Bone Health (healthybonesaustralia.org.au) for further information about dietary sources, including non-dairy)
• Certain medical conditions or medications that your doctor can discuss with you
If you have more than one of these risk factors, your GP may recommend you get a Bone Mineral Density test (DEXA scan). This measures the density in your hip and spine and will guide advice on further treatment.
The simplest, and freely available treatment for maintaining bone density is exercise. If you already have osteoporosis or osteopenia, it’s best to begin a supervised program. Remember it is never too late to start!