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Are you at risk from Osteoporosis? Answer our quiz to find out

 August 2005


 Amazon book - Osteoporosis: The Silent Epidemic  

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’. The basic structure of bone does not change with age. But from the mid-thirties, bone density and strength is reduced.

This is part of the natural ageing process, but in some men and many women too much bone is lost. The skeleton becomes so fragile that the simplest knock or fall can break a bone, particularly in the wrist, spine or hip.

  • Osteoporosis results in bones becoming so porous that they can break very easily. One in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will break a bone because of the fragile bone disease in the UK.

  • Osteoporosis costs the government and NHS ?1.7 billion annually, equivalent to ?5 million per day.

  • People at increased risk from the disease include women who have had an early menopause (before age 45) or with a history of anorexia, men and women treated with long-term or high dose corticosteroids, and those who have broken a bone after a minor bump or fall.

Are you at risk?

Try this quiz to see whether you are one of the people at risk in the UK.

Answer yes or no:

1: Are you over 65?

2: Have you taken corticosteroid tablets (which are prescribed for conditions such as asthma) for more than three months?

3: Have you broken a bone after a minor bump or fall?

4: Have you undergone an early menopause (before the age of 45)?

5: Have you undergone an early hysterectomy, which included the removal of both your ovaries, before the age of 45?

6: Has your mother broken a hip after a minor bump or fall?

7: Men only: Have you ever been diagnosed as having low testosterone levels?

8: Do you regularly drink more alcohol than is recommended, ie over four units a day for men or over three units a day for women?

9: Do you smoke?

10: Are you underweight for your height?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, then you are to some extent, ‘at risk’

What to do now?

Just because you have a risk factor does not mean you are going to get the disease; but it does mean that you may be more prone to developing it. There are always changes you can make to the way you live your life that will lessen your risk. Broken bones due to osteoporosis are not an inevitable part of ageing and there are treatments that can help to strengthen your skeleton.
If you feel you are at risk, your GP can arrange a bone density scan (DXA), though the National Osteoporosis Society is concerned that waiting times for a scan to diagnose osteoporosis are too long in many areas, which could mean a delay in getting a treatment.

Healthy bones need nourishment

Other than cutting out smoking and not drinking to excess, what you eat is one of the key factors in avoiding osteoporosis.
Aim for a well-balanced diet that includes a good variety of food, including bread, potatoes, pasta and cereals; fruit and vegetables; milk and dairy products; and meat, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds, to ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Calcium is particularly important to bones and helps to give them strength and rigidity. Good sources of calcium are dairy products like milk, yogurts and cheese.

Drugs to treat osteoporosis

Drugs to treat osteoporosis are the bisphosphonates alendronate (Fosamax), eitidronate (Didronel PMO) and risedronate (Actonel), the selective estrogen receptor modulator raloxifene (Evista) and teriparatide (Forsteo). A once-monthly bisphosphonate treatment is being evaluated by the American FDA. Discuss any of these drugs with your GP or practice nurse before taking them, as they do have side effects.

Supplements for bones

Mineral supplements with vitamins for healthy bones may be prescribed by a GP: calcium carbonate with vitamin D is the most common combination. These can also be bought over the counter.
Or you could try a branded product. BioCalth contains Calcium L-threonate, described by its makers as ‘a vitamin C metabolite that works as a biocarrier for calcium, ensuring a 95% absorption rate direct to the bone’. A single trial of 79 women comparing calcium carbonate and BioCalth, showed better results on the latter.

BioCalth is available from supermarkets, the NutriCentre, pharmacies and healthfood stores, priced at ?14.99 for a month’s supply (90 tablets or 60 sachets).



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