World Osteoporosis Day – 20 October 2020
Posted by Martin Hewitt on October 18, 2020
Photo by Chris J Mitchell from Pexels
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak a lot more quickly than normal, meaning that they are more likely to fracture, or break, just from minor bumps.
When someone gets a fracture from a relatively low impact, it is known as a fragility fracture. It is one of the signs that someone may have osteoporosis and is often a signal that medical intervention may be required.
Osteoporosis affects more than 3 million people in the UK, while more than 500,000 receive treatment for fragility fractures as a result of it. The bones most commonly fractured are hip, spine and wrist.
However, with the right treatment and use of certain mobility aids, symptoms and pain can be managed, helping people living with the condition remain independent.
Through childhood and early adulthood, our bones slowly strengthen by themselves by taking on more and more calcium. Once we get into our thirties, our bones begin to lose small amounts of calcium, which leads to bones gradually being weakened.
While bone thinning is a normal part of the ageing process, some people can lose bone density much more quickly than others.
Women generally have weaker bones than men and have a higher overall lifetime risk for developing osteoporosis. Women can also lose bone rapidly in the first few years of menopause, especially if they go through early onset menopause (that is, before the age of 45).
Other risk factors include:
- Long-term use of certain medications that affect bone strength, or hormones, such as steroids.
- Inactivity – not taking enough exercise.
Having a high Body Mass Index (BMI). (Want to know what your BMI is? Have a look on the NHS website by following this link. It only takes a couple of minutes, and it is certainly well worth keeping an eye on your BMI).
- Malnutrition – an ongoing lack of calcium and vitamin D intake can increase the decline in bone strength.
- Certain other medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, overactive thyroid, and kidney disease.
- Heavy drinking and smoking.
If we can decrease the rate at which bones decline, then we are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis. Some things which affect our bone strength we cannot change, such as age and gender. But there are a number of lifestyle changes we can make which should help including:
- Taking more exercise. Bones can be thought of as a little like muscles because they slowly regenerate themselves and strengthen if they are being used regularly. The NHS recommends that people over 65 should try to exercise for at least 150 minutes (that’s just two and a half hours) every week. Some guidelines on the types of exercise and how often to do them can be found by clicking here.
Eat more calcium. Some foods with high amounts of calcium include dairy products and green, leafy vegetables. For more advice on ensuring an adequate intake of calcium in your diet, click here.
Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium. Most of what we need is produced by our skin when it comes into contact with sunlight. However, certain factors, such as having darker skin and infrequently being outdoors, may mean not getting enough vitamin D. There are some foods that contain vitamin D, such as eggs and certain types of fish. For more information on how to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin D, click here.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight. Keeping a healthy body weight puts less stress on your bones and joints.
- Reducing the amount you drink and quit smoking.
If someone has an underlying condition that is contributing to osteoporosis, then the proposed treatment plan is likely to include measures to address this. For example, if someone is an asthmatic who is frequently on steroids, a doctor may suggest changes in the asthma treatment regime, to try to decrease the frequency of the need for these drugs.
The Royal Osteoporosis Society is the charity in the UK which fundraises for research into this condition. Their website is a mine of information about osteoporosis, how they are raising awareness, the research they are funding, and there is also a dedicated phone helpline to provide support to those living with osteoporosis.
It can be scary to continue with exercise and normal daily activities once someone has been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Often it is diagnosed following a fracture, which can be extremely painful. Also, the fact that these fractures occur from relatively small slips and trips can leave people fearful of continuing about their daily lives or attempting any form of exercise.
This, in turn, can often lead to a steady decline, where the fear of falls leads to immobility, which leads to increasing fragility, and so the cycle goes on. It is essential to try to ensure that people feel confident to continue with their typical day-to-day routines while also preventing situations that can lead to further fractures.
You could consider using a mobility aid style exercise equipment which allows you to sit down whilst doing strength exercises, as this reduces the risk of fracture whilst allowing effective training.
Some other things to consider when trying to prevent falls are:
- Remove tripping hazards from your home and ensure you have clear pathways from room-to-room.
- Make sure to wear sensible well-fitting footwear. So rather than those old sloppy slippers, it could be time to treat yourself to a new pair of slippers with a strong rubber sole.
- Ensure adequate lighting around the home, particularly in the evening, and at night, when you might pop out of bed to nip to the loo – this handy night light torch would help here.
- If you require a little support whilst walking, particularly with your balance, then why not consider a mobility aid such as the Let’s Go Indoor rollator? Its handy integral tray makes moving from room-to-room a doddle!
- Adding another mobility aid in and around your bathroom will also provide support when using the loo, having a wash or shower – there’s a wide range of grab rails available to suit different bathroom décor.
- Keep items that you frequently use nearby and within easy reach. And if you need to reach something, why not use a reacher rather than overstretch, which could cause you to unbalance and fall?
Click here for a list of some other hints and tips to reduce the risk of falling while at home or out and about.
If you do, unfortunately, incur a small injury or fracture, hot and cold therapy can provide pain relief. At the same time, protectors and splints can help keep wrists, elbows, hands, knees and ankles cushioned and protected from further damage. Always consult your GP first to find the ideal mobility aid that can help with your specific requirements.
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