Osteoporosis is common, affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. Every year, there are over 500,000 osteoporosis-related fractures, and every month, 1,100 deaths occur following a hip fracture. The impact of osteoporosis can be devastating, but it is treatable, and preventable.

What do you know about osteoporosis?

In the UK alone, 1 in 2 women, and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will have osteoporosis.  Every three minutes, because of osteoporosis, someone experiences a fracture.  An estimated 3 million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis. Each year, thousands of patients experience wrist, hip, or spinal fractures – and the numbers are on the rise

What actually is osteoporosis?

It is a medical condition characterized by low bone density and increased risk of fractures. It occurs when the body loses bone mass faster than it can replace it, resulting in weaker and more fragile bones. Osteoporosis can affect both men and women, but it is more common in women, especially after menopause.

There are several risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis, including age, genetics, certain medical conditions, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and lack of exercise. Symptoms of this diseases may not be noticeable until a fracture occurs, but they can include back pain, loss of height, and a stooped posture.

Prevention and treatment of this diseases involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions. This can include regular exercise, a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and medications such as bisphosphonates to slow bone loss. Screening for osteoporosis may be recommended for individuals at risk, particularly women over the age of 65 or men over the age of 70.

What causes osteoporosis?

As well as a low peak bone mass, there are other factors that can contribute to the development of osteoporosis:

A sedentary lifestyle (e.g lack of exercise, not being active) ·

Drinking excess alcohol

Smoking

Low sun exposure and lack of vitamin D

Low calcium levels

Inflammatory conditions (e.g arthritis)

Genetic variation

Drugs, such as steroids

Apoptosis (cell death)

Menopause – particularly early menopause

It is also more common in women than it is in men. The most commonly affected areas in the body are the wrist, hip, and spine. As the process is gradual, osteoporosis often displays no symptoms until a bone breaks. However, as bones become weaker, you may notice back pain, a slight loss in height over time, or a stooped posture.

Treatment and prevention of osteoporosis

There are ways you can help to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, and many start with your lifestyle.  Smoking is advised against, as it can increase rates of bone loss, and reduce levels of calcium absorption.  If you drink excess alcohol, this can decrease your bone formation and decrease the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

Moderation is key, and more than one alcoholic drink a day is considered excessive. Alcohol can also increase your risk of falling, which is another risk factor for diseases.

To prevent falls, wearing shoes with a low heel is recommended, along with making sure your general environment is as safe as possible. Tuck away wires or cables, and avoid having slippery surfaces around the home.

Once osteoporosis has been diagnosed, there are various medications and therapies that can be prescribed by the doctor. After diagnosis, your specialist can recommend the best course of treatment.

Prevention, however, is always better than cure in this case. Your lifestyle and the decisions you make can affect your bones and their health. Factors such as nutrition, exercise, and daily habits can affect how likely you are to develop the condition. While osteoporosis is common, it can be helped, and you have the potential to prevent it.

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