Osteoporosis is a condition that leaves bones fragile and at higher risk of fracture than in normal bone. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more rapidly than the body can replace them resulting in a sparse, mesh-like bone structure. Bone loss can occur without symptoms but when bone density has decreased, even a minor bump or fall can cause a fracture. Many sufferers are unaware they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. Fractures often require hospitalisation and can cause a person to be immobile for a long period of time.
1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men over the age of 65 have osteoporosis
*Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011-2012
What is a fracture?
A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone. Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis but the most common sites are the spine, hip, upper arm, wrist, ribs or forearm. Osteoporotic fractures can be serious leading to chronic pain, disability and loss of independence. Spinal fractures can result in postural changes, loss of height and deformity of the spine. The prognosis for pneumonia in those over 80 years is very poor post hip fracture.
Risk factors for developing osteoporosis:
- Age: being over 60 years of age
- Ethnic background, e.g. people of Asian ethnicity are at an increased risk
- Being female
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Early menopause
- A low level of daily physical activity
- Being underweight or obese
- Inadequate calcium and/or vitamin D intake
- Excessive alcohol consumption
What can be done to reduce the risk of osteoporosis?
- Supply a healthy diet that includes adequate serves of calcium rich foods
- Ensure residents vitamin D levels are in the healthy range – check with the GP
- Help maintain residents’ vitamin D levels by encouraging them to enjoying some sunshine. Remember to be sun safe by enjoying the outdoors before 10am or after 3pm
- Encourage the avoidance of negative lifestyle factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol
- Encourage healthy weight maintenance
- Encourage regular ‘bone friendly’ physical activity
- Taking medications as prescribed