What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become fragile and brittle. They fracture more easily than normal bone. Even a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. Half of all women and one-third of men over 60 in Australia will have a fracture due to osteoporosis.  Any bone can be affected but the most common are bones in the hip, spine, wrist, ribs, pelvis and upper arm.


What causes osteoporosis?

The health of your bones depends on:

• your genes (60-80%)

• the level of hormones in your body –  in women this hormone is oestrogen; in men it’s the hormone testosterone.

• how physically active you are

• what you eat


Menopause and osteoporosis

Menopause means the time around a woman’s last period. Most Australian women reach menopause between the ages of 45-55, but it can happen earlier.  From the age of 45 years, women may begin to lose bone due to a decrease in the production of the hormone oestrogen at this age. All women lose bone at menopause. The amount varies, but some can lose as much as 30% of their bone during those years. If you have an early menopause for some reason, you will begin to lose bone at an earlier age.


Men and osteoporosis

The male hormone, testosterone, gradually decreases from about 50 years of age in men. However, men’s bone density tends to stay the same until they are much older. But after 75 years of age, both men and women lose more bone, especially in the hip. This is part of the ageing process.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

Risk factors for osteoporosis and fractures caused by osteoporosis are similar in women and men. They include some things that you can change, and some that you can’t.


Risk factors you can change

You have a higher risk of having a fracture due to osteoporosis if you:

• Do little or no physical activity

• Are a smoker

• Have a high alcohol intake

• Have low body weight

• Have low calcium intake

• Frequently fall


Risk factors you can’t change

You have a higher risk of having a fracture due to osteoporosis if you:

• Have a parent or grandparent who has osteoporosis or who has had a fracture caused by osteoporosis.

• Are female

• Are Caucasian or Asian

• Have a small body build

• Had delayed puberty or early onset of menopause

• Had anorexia which caused loss of periods

• Have already had a fracture caused by osteoporosis

• Are over 60 years of age

• Have rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver disease or kidney failure

• Have a history of over-active thyroid or parathyroid glands, or have been treated with thyroid hormones in the past

• Are a male with low levels of testosterone

• Have had long-term drug treatment with corticosteroids (such as prednisone)


Preventing osteoporosis – reduce your risk

Preventing osteoporosis is important. Although there are treatments for osteoporosis, there is no cure. You can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis and having a fracture by:

• Having a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D

• Weight-bearing and strengthening exercises (such as walking, Pilates and weight training)

• Having a bone density test, if appropriate

• Asking your doctor if you need medication or if any medicines you take may be causing bone loss

• Not smoking

• Drinking less alcohol

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, one of the best things you can do is seek an assessment from a physio to design a safe exercise program to develop better posture, strength and flexibility.  Call us today to arrange an appointment to address your concerns and get a plan in place to reduce the effects of osteoporosis.

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