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What Is Osteoporosis?

Elderly women with osteoporosis doing light exercise

Osteoporosis – Latin for ‘porous bones’ - is often referred to as the ‘silent disease’ due to the condition developing slowly, often with people not having symptoms until they fall or impact causes an injury. As we get older, our bones lose their density and become thinner, brittle and weaker which means we have more chance of developing osteoporosis and more susceptible to bone fractures or breaks.

More than three million people in the UK are estimated to have the condition and factors including gender, age, race, lifestyle and medical conditions can make you more vulnerable to developing the disease. We’ve put together a list of symptoms of osteoporosis and prevention. If you already have osteoporosis there are also some tips to improve your symptoms and protect your bones.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors:

  • Gender

Women are around 4 times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. This is due to menopause and the process of bone loss when the ovaries stop producing oestrogen. Men also generally have a higher bone density before the process of bone loss begins.

  • Age

Something out of our control but as we age, the risk increases.

  • Race

People of Caucasian and Asian decent tend to be more susceptible to developing osteoporosis

  • Family History

Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis could mean you’re more likely to develop it yourself, more so if they have fractured a hip in the past.

  • Body Frame

If you have a small body frame there is an increased risk of developing osteoporosis due to lower bone mass.

Other Factors:

Low calcium intake, eating disorders, Gastrointestinal surgery, steroid and other medication, medical conditions such as coeliac disease, kidney or liver disease, IBS, cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and drinking alcohol.

What Are The Symptoms Of Osteoporosis?

The early stages of bone loss typically have no symptoms until the person experiences a fracture. There are a few early warning signs that could point to osteoporosis such as receding gums, weakened grip strength and brittle nails. This stage is called osteopenia, where scans reveal lower bone density than average but not enough to be classed as osteoporosis. Osteopenia doesn’t always lead to osteoporosis – if you have osteopenia there are steps you can take to maintain your bone health and reduce the risk of developing the disease.

Maintaining Your Bone Health

  • Calcium

Eating a healthy, balanced diet could prevent osteoporosis. Foods high in calcium include low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, sardines with bones, soya products such as tofu or soya milk and calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice. Because bone is continually broken down and replaced by new cells, it’s important to consume enough calcium each day to protect your bone’s structure as well as strength. Don’t try eating high amounts of calcium at one time though, it’s better to spread your calcium intake throughout the day. This is because our bodies absorb calcium better when it’s in smaller amounts. Always speak to your GP first if you’re looking at taking calcium supplements as they aren’t right for everyone.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is so important for bone health because it helps out bodies absorb calcium and store it in our systems. Scientific research also suggests it may help prevent the onset of rheumatoid arthritis also, as well as enhancing muscle function and strength. Daily supplements of vitamin D are the best method especially for people who are house-bound and have little access to sunlight. Again your GP can offer advice as vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can build up to dangerous levels in the body if take in high doses.

  • Exercise

Not exercising enough can cause our bones to lose strength, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Why not incorporating some gentle walks, dancing, water aerobics or yoga with your Live in Carer – even activities around the house can help such as mowing the lawn or light cleaning. It’s never too late to start improving your health and your Live-in Carer can help with this.

  • Lifestyle Change

Smoking and drinking too much alcohol could lead to decreased bone density. Studies have shown that smokers have less balance than non-smokers meaning they are more likely to fall and potentially fracture or break a bone. Stopping smoking and decreasing alcohol intake is a good way to protect yourself from osteoporosis.

What Treatment Is Available For Osteoporosis?

There is no cure for osteoporosis however treatment is available to protect and strengthen your bones. To reduce risk follow the above guidelines by exercising more, eating well and lifestyle change. Discuss any concerns with your Home Carer who may have had previous experience of this. Once you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your GP will work with you to determine the best course of treatment for you. Treatment plans are available and if your risk is low, the focus could be on reducing risk factors for bone loss and falls.

How To Prevent Falls

  • Wear non-slip shows

  • Clean up spills immediately

  • Remove or glue down rugs or slippery surfaces

  • Reduce clutter, wires and cords on floors

  • Ensure your home is well lit

  • Install grab bars can be beneficial

It’s important to speak to your GP if you have any concerns about living with osteoporosis so they can answer any questions you have.

We help arrange Private Live-in Carers to help you with everyday tasks, managing illnesses, caring for you after a hospital visit, and much more. To talk to us about at home Live-in Care call 01264 319 399.


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