Professor Moira O’Brien
Founder and President of the Irish Osteoporosis Society
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the insides of a person’s bones. It occurs when a person loses more bone than their body produces.
With osteoporosis, bones become brittle and break very easily, which are called fragility fractures. A person can look perfectly fine on the outside but have significant bone loss. There are no signs or symptoms prior to a person breaking a bone.
Everyone should check to see if they have risk factors for bone loss, as only 15% of people have been diagnosed, which leaves 280,000 people undiagnosed.
One in four men and one in two women aged 50, will break a bone from osteoporosis in their lifetime.
Osteoporosis is preventable in the majority of people, therefore most fractures are also preventable. People assume that breaking a bone is not serious. The reality is, that 20% of people aged 60+ who break their hip, will die within six-to-12 months, from the secondary effects of a fracture and 50% will lose their independence. 90% of fractured hips are due to osteoporosis.
Knowing what can help and prevent osteoporosis
Many people confuse osteoporosis with arthritis. Osteoporosis affects the bones; arthritis affects the joints.
Everyone should be getting the recommended daily amounts of calcium, vitamin D and protein, not only for their bone health but for their overall health. Appropriate weight-bearing exercise is essential to help build strong bones. Anyone with bone loss should be assessed by a health professional who can interpret their DXA scan report.
It is not recommended that those with bone loss should be doing regular sit-ups, yoga, trampolining, or twisting their spine. Swimming and bike riding are not weight-bearing activities.
A personalised approach to treatment
It is essential that the causes of bone loss are investigated and addressed, not assumed, as there are approximately around 200 causes. This is to ensure a person will improve on a chosen treatment and not continue to lose bone.
The treatment a person receives should be based on their age, their medical history, the results from a DXA scan of their spine and hips, if the person has broken a bone/s, the causes of their bone loss and the area/s affected.
One in four men and one in two women aged 50, will break a bone from osteoporosis in their lifetime, but it affects all age groups. Senior citizens are the highest risk group, as many are on medications or have conditions which cause bone loss.
Staggeringly, more women die from osteoporosis, than the combined deaths of cancer of the ovaries, uterus and cervix. More men die from osteoporosis, then get prostate cancer.