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Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’. It occurs when bone is lost faster than it is made resulting in weaker bone that is more prone to fractures or breaks. We primarily build and store bone until our mid-20’s and then as we age bone growth slows and can become depleted.



Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’ as there are no signs or symptoms, until you have a bone fracture. Men and women can both be affected, however women aged over 50 are at greatest risk due to the rapid decline in oestrogen seen after menopause. Women will lose approximately 10% bone mass during the first 5 years after menopause.


Although any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, common fracture points are the hip, spine and wrist. Osteoporotic fractures physically impact height, posture, pain and mobility and also increase the risk of future fractures.



Risk factors
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Early menopause,
  • Inadequate calcium in the diet,
  • Low vitamin D levels,
  • Sedentary lifestyle,
  • Cigarette smoking,
  • Excessive alcohol intake,
  • Long term corticosteroid use,
  • Medical conditions such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis or Coeliac Disease.


There are some risk factors that cannot be changed such as gender, age, menopause or medical conditions, however modifiable risk factors should be addressed to prevent and improve treatment of osteoporosis.



Adequate calcium
Calcium is essential for building and maintaining bone with almost 99% of the body’s calcium stored in the bones. It is crucial to have a diet high in calcium because if sufficient amounts of calcium are not obtained from the diet, calcium is leached out of your bones. Dairy is the best source of calcium, with other good sources including salmon or sardines (their small edible bones are calcium rich) and foods fortified with calcium (such as soy milk or breakfast cereals). Your health professional may also recommend a calcium supplement that can help provide sufficient calcium.



Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for bone health because it helps absorb calcium. Adequate vitamin D is needed to regulate calcium levels in the blood and to maintain skeletal growth. The main source of vitamin D is from exposure to sunlight as food provides very little vitamin D. Many Australians don’t have adequate vitamin D levels, particularly during winter. If your vitamin D levels are low, your health professional can advise you on appropriate supplement doses for your needs.



When pressure is put on joints and muscles, it encourages bones to become stronger. Therefore, regular physical exercise is critical to not only maintain and improve bone strength and prevent fractures, but also to improve muscles that can assist in balance and strength. To improve bone strength, exercise should be regular, varied in duration and intensity and include weight bearing exercises. If you have osteoporosis, seek professional guidance before engaging in new exercise routines to minimise risk of injury.

If you’d like to know more about diagnosing or managing osteoporosis, speak to your health professional.



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.




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