Have you recently had a visit with your local GP, who has told you have Osteoporosis after having a bone density test? Have you left still unsure what the condition actually is and how it might effect you in the longer term?
Well Osteoporosis is a condition affecting our bones, where the rate at which the minerals in our bones is declining is at a greater rate than our body is able to replace it.
‘Brittle Bones’ is a phrase often associated with the condition. As seen above the osteoporotic bone structure appears web like and becomes thin and sparse. Opposed to the healthy structure of non osteoporotic bone showed on the left. Having brittle bones means you are at a greater risk of a fracture or break of the arm or leg when a fall occurs. In some circumstances individuals can fracture a rib from the force of sneezing. Osteoporosis can affect any of your bones, including your spine-there is even some evidence that it may shorten your life expectancy.
This can also mean that joint replacement should it be required, can be a little challenging with an increased risk of fracture during or after the operation and sometimes some loosening of the prosthesis that is used to replace the joint.
You may be wondering how did this happen to me? Like any condition there are many risk factors that contribute to an individual developing osteoporosis.
In Australia in 2017-2018 it was found 29% of women over the age of 75 had osteoporosis compared to 10% of males over 75yrs old had the condition. Although osteoporosis is more common as we age, it is common for women over 50 particularly post menopausal women who are thin with low muscle tone or who may have had their ovaries removed. Women are 4 times more likely to have brittle bones than men. With that in mind Men you are still not immune and rates of osteoporosis in men do increase with aging.
Family history of a sibling or a parent who has had the condition is a major contributing factor, coupled with excessive alcohol consumption, inactivity, smoking and poor diet. Additionally, certain medications can increase the risk of osteoporosis, including steroids, antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and anticonvulsants. Certain diseases also can increase your risk, such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, and gastrointestinal diseases (colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease).
The Good News
Well the good news is that osteoporosis and osteopenia which is the stage before your bones are diagnosed as osteoporosis can be reversible. It won't be easy, but below a few key areas that can be altered, that can help with your bone health:
Engaging in regular exercise has benefits in reducing the rate of bone loss and lowering the risk of falls and therefore fractures. There are certain types of exercise which are best suited to help your bone health. Weight bearing exercises such as weight lifting and high impact exercise such as jumping and jogging. You may enjoy walking or swimming which have other great health benefits, however research has shown they have little effect on your bone health and improving their strength.
Reach out to a qualified Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist who can design a tailored and safe exercise program to assist.
Often people with osteoporosis are lacking Calcium and Vitamin D in their diet. Calcium, a key mineral, is absorbed by our body to help build new bone. Foods rich in Calcium include dairy products (milk and cheese) and green leafy vegetables (spinach and kale).
While Vitamin D plays a key role in maintaining bone strength and health. Good food options for this Vitamin D include oily fish (salmon and sardines), red meat and egg yolks.
Talk to your local Dietitian for further information and certain food groups that may assist your osteoporosis.
Smoking is a lifestyle choice with various side effects. Tobacco smoking affects your body’s ability to absorb calcium while is a vital mineral required for bone strength. Reducing your alcohol consumption is also important as alcohol weakens our bones in various ways, causing them to become brittle.
Initially small reductions in the amount of the above lifestyle choices are consumed is a great starting point in helping your bone health.
Osteoporosis medications such as Fosamax, Prolia, Forteo and others can help increase bone density and strength or slow future bone loss to reduce the risk for osteoporotic fractures. Unfortunately there can be significant side effects that your doctor will need to discuss with you if this is an option.
So What’s Next ?
There are great experienced and specialist allied health professionals that can assist you in the treatment and management of your condition. Or who can help your neighbour, friend, loved one or family member to improve their bone health before they develop brittle bones.
Here at In-Balance we can provide advice, support, liaise with your GP and develop a safe exercise programs which are individually tailored to suit your level of fitness and strength. Get in touch if you are concerned about your bone health.