What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Due to its prevalence worldwide, osteoporosis is considered a serious public health concern. Currently, it is estimated that over 200 million people worldwide suffer from this disease and the projections indicate that the number of hip fractures occurring in the world each year will rise from 1.66 million in 1990 to 6.26 million by 2050. Approximately 30% of all postmenopausal women have osteoporosis in the United States and in Europe. At least 40% of these women and 15-30% of men will sustain one or more fragility fractures in their remaining lifetime.
Bones are thickest and strongest in your early adult life until your late 20s. You gradually start losing bone from around the age of 35. This happens to everyone, but some people develop osteoporosis and lose bone much faster than normal. This means they are at greater risk of a fracture.
Risk factors include:
- Female gender
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Previous fracture
- Menopause/ oophorectomy
- Long term glucocorticoid therapy
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Primary/secondary hypogonadism in men
- Low body mass index
- Poor nutrition
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Eating disorders
- Insufficient exercise
Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) provided a widely utilizable method for calculating bone mineral density (BMD). The World Health Organisation (WHO) produced an operational definition of osteoporosis based on a BMD T score of −2.5 or lower. This score is the diagnostic criterion for osteoporosis and those in an osteopenic range (T score between −1.0 and −2.5) are still at risk of fracture.
- Ensure a healthy diet that includes enough calcium and protein, two key nutrients for bone health.
- Get enough vitamin D - made in the skin after exposure to sunlight, the average young adult needs about 15 minutes of daily sun exposure. You can boost your vitamin D intake through some foods like oily fish, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified dairy foods or juices.
- Maintain a healthy body weight - being too thin is damaging to your bone health.
- Keep active! Take regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise.
- Avoid smoking and heavy drinking.
Be aware of your osteoporosis risk factors, and get an early diagnosis by your family doctor, and treatment if needed.
- What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It? [Internet] [cited 2020 Aug 24]. Available from: https://www.nof.org/patients/what-is-osteoporosis/
- Cooper C, Campion G, Melton LJ 3rd. Hip fractures in the elderly: a world-wide projection. Osteoporos Int. 1992 Nov;2(6):285-9
- Melton III LJ, Chrischilles EA, Cooper C, Lane AW, Riggs BL: Perspective: How many women have osteoporosis? J Bone Miner Res 1992;7:1005-10
- Randell A, Sambrook PN, Nguyen TV, Lapsey H, Jones G, Kelly PJ, Eisman JA. Direct clinical and welfare costs of osteoporotic fractures in elderly men and women. Osteoporosis Int 1995;5:427-32
- Causes-Osteoporosis [Internet][updated 2019 Jun 18; cited 2020 Aug 24]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoporosis/causes/
- Who’s at risk? [Internet] [cited 2020 Aug 24]. Available from: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/whos-risk
- Fuggle, N.R., Curtis, E.M., Ward, K. et al. Fracture prediction, imaging and screening in osteoporosis. Nat Rev Endocrinol 15, 535–547 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41574-019-0220-8
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