Doc Talk #51 – Osteoporosis



In this show we discussed osteoporosis (reduced bone mineral density) and bone disease.

Osteoporosis is commonest among women who have been through menopause, but it can affect anyone. It can increase the risk of fractures, including fractures of the hip and spine.

We talked about how to determine if you might be in danger of osteoporosis, some of the risk factors for osteoporosis and (of course) some advice about lifestyle.

Paradoxically being overweight protects you from osteoporosis, unfortunately as we’ve talked about before it will increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes and cancer, so we don’t advocate getting overweight to protect your bones!

Who might be at risk of osteoporosis?

  • Females
  • After menopause (average age of menopause is 53)
  • Being underweight
  • Low testosterone levels in men
  • People who drink excess alcohol
  • Smokers
  • People whose mother or father have suffered a hip fracture
  • Some medications including long term steroid use

The screening test for osteoporosis is quick, harmless and painless! A bone density (DEXA) scan is used.

Unfortunately the first symptom of osteoporosis might be a fracture

Fragility fractures are breaks in bones above the age of 40 after a relatively minor injury (such as falling from standing height) also raise the possibility of osteoporosis.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Be careful about avoiding falls (especially in icy weather etc)
  • Ask your family doctor if you think you might be at risk
  • Reduce your alcohol intake – avoid consuming more than 1 or 2 drinks a day
  • Ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D
  • Stop smoking
  • Regular weight bearing exercise (walking, running)

There are some highly effective treatments for osteoporosis including ensuring adequate vitamin D and calcium intake and specialized medications including bisphosphonates.

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