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Build a frame for longevity – what you need to know about bone health!

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the density and quality of bones, making them weak and more likely to fracture or break. It is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured, only managed. While osteoporosis can occur in both men and women, it can be sped up in women after menopause when estrogen levels drop. One in two women and one in three men over the age of 60 will experience a fracture due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a major public health issue worldwide, particularly in Australia. Osteoporosis, osteopenia or poor bone health affects an estimated 4.74 million Australians over 50 years old, and its prevalence is expected to rise with the aging of the population (HBA, 2022). 

Why is Osteo Health Important:

Osteo health, which refers to the health and strength of bones and joints, is essential for several reasons. First, strong bones and joints are necessary to maintain mobility and independence. Second, osteo health plays a critical role in preventing fractures, particularly in older adults. In 2022, there were over 183,105 hospitalisations due to fractures in Australia, with over 50% of those fractures occurring in people aged 65 and older (HBA, 2021). Third, maintaining good osteo health can help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures. Finally, good osteo health can help support overall physical fitness and athletic performance at all ages.

The top 5 signs of poor osteo health are:

  1. Fractures: Fractures, especially in the hip, spine, or wrist, are a clear sign of poor bone health and can be an indication of osteoporosis.
  2. Height loss: A loss of height, typically due to compression fractures in the spine, is a sign of bone loss and poor osteo health.
  3. Joint pain: Osteoarthritis, a common condition that affects the joints, can signify poor osteo health. Osteoarthritis is also common in Australia, affecting an estimated 2.2 million people, or 9.3% of the population. It is most prevalent in people over the age of 45.
  4. Limited mobility: Poor osteo health can lead to stiffness and limited mobility, making it difficult to perform daily activities and exercise.
  5. Weak grip strength: Reduced grip strength, which can be measured using a hand dynamometer, can be an indicator of poor osteo health and an increased risk of fracture.

There are several ways to improve osteo health, including:

Eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone health, or speaking to a healthcare professional about supplementing the diet (HBA, 2021).

Engaging in weight-bearing exercises like walking up hills, jogging, and weightlifting can help build and maintain bone density.

Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, both of which can weaken bones.

Getting enough sleep and managing stress can help support overall health and well-being.

Regular bone density scans monitor bone health and detect any changes or declines.

Some medications available with a prescription can help slow bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis.

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine and to follow their advice for the best ways to improve your osteo health, and we also recommend you visit your GP for osteo health concerns if you are experiencing any of following symptoms:

  1. Persistent joint pain or stiffness that lasts for more than a few weeks.
  2. Loss of height or a change in posture.
  3. A recent fracture, especially if you are over the age of 50.
  4. Pain in the lower back or neck.
  5. Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.
  6. A family history of osteoporosis or other bone diseases.
  7. A history of prolonged steroid use can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Your GP can assess your osteoporosis and other bone diseases risk, provide a diagnosis, and recommend appropriate treatment and management strategies. They may also refer you to a specialist, such as a bone endocrinologist, for further evaluation or treatment. 

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  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Osteoporosis. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoporosis/contents/what-is-osteoporosis
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoarthritis/contents/what-is-osteoarthritis
  • Healthy Bones Australia. (2021). About Bones. https://healthybonesaustralia.org.au/your-bone-health/about-bones/#:~:text=Over%201%20million%20Australians%20have,due%20to%20poor%20bone%20health.
  • Healthy Bones AUstralia. (2022). Burden of Disease Analysis 2012-2022. Retrieved from https://healthybonesaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Burden-of-Disease-Analysis-2012-2022.pdf
  • Osteoporosis Australia. (2022). Osteoporosis statistics. Retrieved from https://www.osteoporosis.org.au/statistics
  • Better Health Channel. (2021). Osteoporosis – prevention. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/osteoporosis-prevention