What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is defined as a decline in the bone mineral density of the bones of the body which causes them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break or fracture. This is most common in the hip, spine and wrist, but also can occur in other bones such as the arm and pelvis. Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone’. 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 in the UK will fracture a bone at some point due to deteriorating bone health. Over 3 million people in the UK are thought to have osteoporosis resulting in over 230,000 fractures every year.
What are the symptoms?
Osteoporosis develops slowly over several years and is quite often termed a ‘silent disease’ as the first symptoms may in fact be a fracture or break following a minor fall or sudden impact. This would be termed a fragility fracture. Another visible symptom can be the stooping position (Dowager's hump) that occurs in some older people, as the spine can no longer hold the body’s weight, due to compression fractures in individual vertebrae (the bones which make up the spine).
Although some conditions can predispose a person to osteoporosis there are life style changes that can help. Some of these are as follows:
- Eat a varied and healthy diet containing vitamins such as Vitamin D and minerals such as calcium
- Try to reduce both the consumption of alcohol and excess smoking
- Try some weight bearing exercises such as brisk walking and dancing
In all cases if you feel you are at risk of osteoporosis or indeed have the condition you should consult your GP
What will happen next?
Once you see the GP and discuss your condition he/she may refer you for a DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan. This is not a painful or invasive procedure. It will measure the density of your bones and compare it to that of the general healthy population; the difference (if any) gives a T score. The T score is one of the main determinants of whether you have osteoporosis.