Osteoporosis is a common condition affecting 1.2 million Australians. In the over 60s age bracket alone, two in three women and one in three men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture.
Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, at a faster rate than they can be replaced. With reduced minerals, the bone density or mass can be lowered, causing bones to become brittle and easily broken.
‘Minimal trauma’ fractures are very common in the elderly; however, anyone with low levels of vitamin D can be at risk. The most common sites for these fractures are the hip, spine, wrist, upper arm, ribs or forearm. For those unfortunate enough to get a fracture in the spine, the effects can be disastrous and can result in reduced height and posture changes.
The best way to avoid such fractures is to enrol yourself in a bone health program.
What is a bone health program?
A bone health program provides you with your own clinician following diagnosis of osteoporosis. Over six months, you will work with your clinician over the phone to ensure you have all the tools and knowledge needed for managing your condition. Your personal health coach will help you to restructure your diet and make nutritious choices that will help build strength in your bones. This will be achieved with small adjustments and will include calcium and protein rich foods. This aspect of the bone health program is especially essential for those who suffer from coeliac disease, Chrohn’s disease and malabsorption issues. Also at risk are those who have had bowel or gastric surgery.
As well as diet, you will also be given advice on exercise and activities that can be used to build bone density. On top of this, you’ll receive links and access to services, programs and health professionals in your community, who will be able to assist you in meeting your healthy goals.
A bone health program is based on the best practice guidelines of Osteoporosis Australia, as well as the Royal College of General Practitioners. Your clinician will help you keep track of all recommended check ups, scans and blood tests, and will provide you with information as to why these tests are necessary. If your clinician feels you would benefit from supplements or medication, they can point you in the right direction.
Why join a bone health program?
When diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s important you make a few lifestyle changes and monitor the risks involved with such a condition. Fractures can lead to chronic pain, disability, loss of independence and even premature death. Preventing fractures must become a priority.
Early intervention is also key with osteoporosis. Once one fracture has occurred, the risk of you fracturing something else rises significantly. This is known as the ‘cascade effect’. For example, women who have suffered a fracture in the spine are four times more likely to have another fracture within 12 months. Unfortunately, osteoporosis is not often diagnosed until after a fracture has occurred. Osteoporosis is known as a ‘silent disease’, as other than fractures osteoporosis has little or no symptoms.
Keeping track of bone health is not always easy, and a good health bone program can go along way in ensuring a safe and healthy future. Programs can factor in lifestyle and age, and will give you the variables for balancing calcium, exercise and sunshine.