National Osteoporosis Day

20 October 2020

It can come as a surprise to learn that bone is a living tissue. New bone replaces old bone throughout a person’s life, but later in life the cells that build new bone can’t work as quickly as the cells that remove the old, causing the bone to slowly weaken.Nurul Ahad

For a person living with osteoporosis that process is speeded up, leading to bones becoming brittle and fragile.

Nurul Ahad, Practice Plus Group’s Head of Orthopaedics, explained: “Fragile bones are more likely to break, and unfortunately hardworking bones in your wrist, hip and spine are particularly vulnerable.”

It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the UK have osteoporosis, of which as many as 10% receive treatment for fractures in hospitals every year.

Mr Ahad said: “One of the major issues of osteoporosis is that it is silent. A person’s bones can be degenerating without them being aware. It is only when they have an accident, a fall or the bone is put under unusual strain that they or their GP become aware. Osteoporosis can affect anyone, but there are groups who are more at risk and they would be wise to be more vigilant about their bone health.”

Groups vulnerable to osteoporosis include:

  • people with a family history of the condition or who have had relatives with unexplained breaks or fractures;
  • patients on certain types of medication that can affect calcium;
  • those who smoke, regularly consume more than the recommended levels of alcohol, or who do not have a balanced diet that includes calcium and vitamin D (this includes those with eating disorders or a very low BMI);
  • people who do not do weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running and lifting weights, or do not take on physical activities such as gardening; and
  • women over 40, who can also be affected as they lose oestrogen during menopause. This effect is magnified by the fact that women have smaller bones than men. According to Age UK, women aged over 45 years spend more days in hospital because of osteoporosis than diabetes, heart attack or breast cancer.

Mr Ahad said: “All these groups should ensure they do regular weight-bearing exercise, as well as having health diets packed with low or zero fat dairy, oily fish, eggs and lots of green leafy vegetables.”

But men can not afford to relax. Mr Ahad said: “One in five of all fractures in men aged over 50 is related to osteoporosis. By the age of 70 both men and women suffer same rate of bone loss.

“In my previous role as a trauma consultant most of elderly admissions for surgery were for hip fractures. These fractures cause significant pain, disability and loss of independence for patients and in many cases can be fatal.

“Almost one in five (18%) die within four months while nearly a third (30%) within the year. Added to this is what we call the cascade effect: following their first osteoporosis-related fracture on in five patients will suffer another fracture within a year. This can be due to a number of factors including a lack of confidence and walking with an unusual gait as a result of the first injury.

“It is troubling, only half of patients who survive a hip fracture will walk unaided again and in many cases they will never regain their former degree of mobility. 12 months after a hip fracture, 60% of patients require assistance with activities, such as feeding, dressing or toileting – basic aspects of daily life that are fundamental to retaining dignity and independence. Four out of five will need help with activities, such as shopping or driving and as many as 20% end up in full time care.”

Anyone with concerns about osteoporosis should speak to their GP or visit the NHS website here for more details or get with the Royal Osteoporosis Society offer an excellent range of information and support here.