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Osteoporosis: The Importance of Bone Health

Osteoporosis is a common disease in Australia with 1.2 million people estimated to have it and a further 6.3 million with low bone density. As we get older our bones become brittle, and without the right checks and treatment it can lead to a range of additional health challenges. Here’s what you need to know about osteoporosis and how to treat it.  

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes our bones become brittle leading to a higher risk of breaks than in normal bone. It occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, causing a loss of bone thickness (density and mass). As bones become thinner and less dense, even a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, but the most common sites are the hip, spine and wrist.

Am I at Risk?

With over 1 million Australians diagnosed with the disease, osteoporosis is most common in adults over 50 and affects both men and women. Ominously labelled the ‘silent disease’, osteoporosis usually has no apparent symptoms until a fracture occurs. Therefore, anyone with specific risk factors should be investigated by their doctor. These include:

Family History

  • Bone health can be inherited

Medical History

  • Use of corticosteroids used for asthma & arthritis
  • Low hormone levels or early menopause in women
  • Low testosterone levels in men
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Conditions leading to malabsorption disorders such as coeliac disease & inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver & kidney disease
  • Some medication used to treat breast cancer, prostate cancer, epilepsy & depression
  • Recurrent falls

Lifestyle Factors

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Minimal physical activity and exercise
  • Low body weight

What are the Treatment Options?

The sooner you know you have osteoporosis the better. That way, you and your doctor can take action to keep your bones strong, slow down bone loss and reduce the risk of breaks. With the risk of future fractures rising with each new fracture, known as the ‘cascade effect’, it is essential that it be diagnosed and treated immediately.

The only way to determine the onset of the condition is to have regular bone density tests. A bone density test is a simple scan that measures the density of your bones, usually at the hip or spine. The results of this test help your doctor to understand if you are at risk of brittle bones and loss of tissue by indicating if your bones are in the range of normal, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. It takes approximately 5-15 minutes and involves lying on a flatbed while the scanner passes over you.

St John Medical offers comprehensive osteoporosis screening and treatment options. Using state-of-the-art technology at our fully equipped clinic, our specialist doctors can make a comprehensive osteoporosis diagnosis.

Can it be Prevented?

Looking after your bones is essential to your general health. Fractures can lead to chronic pain, a loss of independence, disability and even premature death – so managing bone health to avoid fractures should be a priority. Some steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis at each stage of your life include:

  • Adequate calcium intake
  • Proper vitamin D levels (to help absorb calcium)
  • Regular physical activity and exercise

Are you suffering with bone degeneration? Stay on top of your health and make a booking today for an osteoporosis screening at St John Medical’s osteoporosis clinic. Our team of qualified doctors are always on hand to advise you accordingly and assist with treatment.

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