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Osteoporosis is the Most Common Type of Arthritis

Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become fragile and brittle, and can fracture more easily than normal bones.  Even minor falls can cause serious fractures.

One in two women and one in three men over 60 will have a fracture due to osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis and fractures are major causes of injury, long term disability and even death in older Australians.

The Incidence of Osteoporosis

The incidence of osteoporosis is increasing, primarily as people live longer and the population ages.
  • It is predicted that by 2010, one in three hospital beds will be occupied by elderly women with fractures. (Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study)
  • It has been calculated that by 2011 hip fractures in Australia will have increased by 83%. (National Research Institute of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Melbourne)

The Causes of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is different from most other diseases or common illnesses in that there is no one single cause.
  • The overall health of a person's bones is determined by:
  • Your genes
  • Nutrition (especially calcium and vitamin D)
  • Hormonal activity
  • Exercise

These factors determine how well the bones form in early adulthood (peak bone mass).  After this, prevention of bone loss becomes most important.  Anything, which leads to decreased formation of bone early in life, or loss of bone structure later in life, may lead to osteoporosis and fragile bones, which can then fracture.

Populations at Risk

Risk factors are similar in men and women:
  • Advanced age
  • Family history
  • Small or thin build
  • Low levels of oestrogen (women) and testosterone (men)
  • Low calcium and vitamin D intake and/or absorbtion
  • Physical inactivity or excessive exercise
  • Taking Corticoseriods, Thyroid Medications, Anticonvulsants or Anticoagulants
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol and caffeine
  • Chronic disease of kidney, lung, stomach and intestines
  • Early menopause

Prevention of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is largely preventable for many people.  Prevention of this disease is very important because, while there are treatments for osteoporosis, there is currently no cure.  There are several steps to prevent osteoporosis.  No one step alone is enough to prevent osteoporosis but in combination they will all help.

These steps include:
  • A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Weight-bearing and strengthening exercises
  • Undertake a moderate, regular exercise program and stick with it
  • Bone density testing and medications when appropriate
  • Stop smoking
  • Get proper amounts of calcium generally recommended to be 1000 to 1500 mg/day for postmenopausal women
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Women should discuss oestrogen replacement with their physicians were appropriate
  • Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium.  400-800 IU per day is recommended.
  • Direct exposure to sunlight (during winter), fortified dairy products, egg yolks, salt water fish and cod liver oil are good sources.

Select the right mobility aids or bath safety tools for people with osteoporosis.

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