Once we’re over the age of 35, our bones begin to gradually lose mineral density. It’s a normal part of the aging process, but for some people, it can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a common disease that affects the bones, making them brittle and much more prone to breaks and fractures. This is due to the loss of calcium, phosphorus and other important minerals, and as the bones become thinner and weaker, even minor knocks or falls can cause serious fractures.
Osteoporosis can affect the entire body, but is most commonly experienced in the wrists, hips and spine. Known as a silent killer because it’s often not discovered until a bone is broken, osteoporosis develops gradually over the years to the point where even coughing or sneezing can cause a fractured rib. As osteoporosis is seen more in older people, broken bones can lead to problems with mobility, further fractures and other health issues.
Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis as they age, due to the rapid decrease of oestrogen levels that occurs during menopause. Poor bone health can also be hereditary, and lack of calcium and vitamin D can also contribute to the risk of developing osteoporosis. Lifestyle choices like smoking, too much alcohol or lack of physical activity and medical issues like low hormone levels, thyroid problems, coeliac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and some medication can also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
If you’re at a high risk of osteoporosis, your doctor can assess you before referring you to receive a bone density scan, which measures the density of the bones and determines whether you have osteoporosis or not. Treatment includes safer variations of exercise, medication and fall prevention such as walking aids. Prevention is the best way to avoid any future issues, so ensure you follow a healthy diet and exercise regime, and visit the doctor for regular check-ups.