Tackling Osteoporosis – The silent disease


20 October

Guest blog for World Osteoporosis Day by Julia Thomson, Nurse Manager from the National Osteoporosis Society.  

Osteoporosis is a fragile bone condition which leads to painful and often debilitating broken bones. It means people affected can break a bone really easily – through a minor bump or fall, turning over in bed or even coughing. These fractures really change people’s lives. They mean they will have a problem doing the things most people take for granted such as getting dressed, getting around, eating or even holding a grandchild. Hip fractures are especially serious – a month after suffering a fracture of the hip, one in 14 people will have died and around half will remain in long-term care.

Osteoporosis is surprisingly common, the National Osteoporosis Society says the condition causes 1,400 fragility fractures every day – that is one every minute.


Your bones
The condition is caused by the two types of cell constantly at work in our bones, building new bone and breaking down old bone. Up to our mid-20s the construction cells work harder, building strength into our skeleton. The bad news is, from our 40s onwards, the demolition cells become more active and our bones gradually lose their density. Women lose bone density faster in the years following the menopause when their oestrogen levels drop.

Who is most at risk?
A number of things can influence someone’s risk of osteoporosis. Firstly, you need to look at your family history. If a parent has broken a bone easily, it could mean you are at risk. Age is also important. As we get older, our bones become more fragile – that is a fact of life! Other risk factors to be aware of include gender – as women are more prone to the condition than men – having a low BMI, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and having other medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and coeliac disease.  

Taking action!
If you have broken a bone easily, there are a few things you should do. First, talk to your doctor and find out if you are at risk of further fractures. You can also ask about a ‘fracture risk assessment’ or a ‘bone check’. This means looking at factors that influence your bone strength such as your age and medical history. It will help you and your doctors understand why your bones may be more fragile than expected and also show whether you need a drug treatment.

Help yourself
The good news is that there are things we can all do to keep our bones strong, such as eating a healthy balanced diet and doing lots of weight-bearing exercise. It is also important to get plenty of vitamin D, because that allows us to absorb calcium from our diet and store it in our bones. Sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D, so people in the UK should get out in the sun for ten minutes, once or twice a day a day between March and September, without sunscreen, which blocks the process of vitamin D production.

The National Osteoporosis Society
The National Osteoporosis Society is at the very heart of addressing the wide ranging physical, personal and social issues created by osteoporosis. We do this through supporting people living with the condition, promoting good bone health to prevent osteoporosis and funding research to help those affected.

For more information on osteoporosis, to get support or share your own experiences, see the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) Bone Health community on HealthUnlocked.

National Osteoporosis Society information:
Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 0035


Photo: Julia Thomson 
Source: Courtesy of Dom Hall from the National Osteoporosis Society

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