- Your body is constantly breaking down old bone and replacing it with new. osteoporosis occurs when the bone is lost more quickly than it is replaced. As a result, your bones become weakened and break more easily.
- osteoporosis affects half of Kiwi women over 60.
- It's not just women who get it - around a third of New Zealand men over 60 have osteoporosis.
- You lose bone gradually, so you can have osteoporosis and not realise it until the disease is advanced.
- Becoming shorter or developing a "dowagers hump" (a hump between your shoulder blades) are signs you've got osteoporosis.
- osteoporosis can be diagnosed with a bone density scan (DXA).
- The bones most likely to become weak and break when you've got osteoporosis are your hips, spine and wrists.
- Every year, more than 3000 Kiwis break a hip. That figure is expected to increase by at least 50% in the next 10 years as our population ages.
- Nearly 20% of people who suffer a hip fracture die from related complications within a year.
- More women end up in hospital with a hip fracture due to osteoporosis than with breast cancer.
- Breaking your hip can result in chronic pain and permanent disability.
- Young people can get osteoporosis too. Women can begin losing bone as early as 25.
- After the age of 35, bone loss increases as a natural part of the ageing process.
- Women can experience significant bone loss when they go through menopause and their levels of oestrogen drop.
- once you've broken one bone, you're more likely to have further fractures.
- osteoporosis costs this country around $1.1 billion a year.
- osteoporosis can cause tiny fractures in your spine, making vertebra compress and become wedge shaped.
- oedication called bisphosphonates are commonly prescribed as treatment for osteoporosis. They provide a protective coating on the surface of the bone, increasing bone density.
- There are two types of medication that are subsidised - Etidrate and Alendronate. Alendronate is more powerful and usually prescribed for people who've had fractures.
- Your doctor may prescribe special vitamin D supplements along with a bisphosphonate to help improve bone density.
- Having anorexia or bulimia increases your risk of osteoporosis.
- Weight-bearing exercise helps build strong bones but women who exercise excessively may have an increased chance of bone loss.
- While it's important to build strong bones when you're young, it is never too late to take steps to try to increase bone density.
- There's a link between osteoporosis and several illnesses, including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, coeliac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
- osteoporosis is preventable.
Are you likely to get osteoporosis?
There are certain risk factors that increase your chance of getting this disease.
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Being a womanA history of broken bones
- Being 50+
- Being post-menopausal
- Eating a diet that's low in calcium
- Being thin and "small-boned"
- Drinking heavily
- Being Pakeha or Asian
- Spending less than 30 minutes a day in the sunlight
- Doing less than 30 minutes physical activity a day
- Using certain prescriptions drugs, such as steroids, long-term
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing the disease.
For more info, visit www.bones.org.nz
You can reduce your risk by:
- Eating a diet that includes lots of calcium. The best source is dairy food such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. People under 50 should be getting around 1000mg of calcium a day to reduce the chance of fractures. Women who've been through menopause should be aiming for 1300mg. A 200ml glass of milk provides around 400mg of calcium. Calcium content varies in different products, so check the labels. Non-dairy sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, salmon with bones, and tofu.
- Doing some form of weight-bearing exercise for 30 minutes a day. Try jogging, walking, tennis, low-impact aerobics or dancing.
- Getting adequate vitamin D from the sun - your body needs this to absorb calcium. Around 30 minutes a day in the sunlight should be enough, but make sure you don't get burnt.
- Giving up smoking.
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink to two drinks a day or less.