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Often called the ‘silent disease’, osteoporosis can develop without any signs or symptoms. Here’s some things you can do to help maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when the bones in your body lose a significant amount of minerals, like calcium and phosphate. Dr Adam Roberts, Director of Barwon Endocrinology says that these minerals are essential for repairing and maintaining our skeleton. 

Calcium and phosphate are important to give bones their hardness and contribute to the structural integrity of our skeleton. The loss of bone particularly in areas of trabeculated bone such as our vertebral discs and in our hip bones, can make them look more porous, hence the term osteo (bone) and porosis (pores or holes).
— Dr Adam Roberts, Endocrinologist, Epworth HealthCare

Some people are more at risk of developing osteoporosis than others and having a parent or sibling with a fractured hip or vertebrae can make it more likely for a person to have an inherited risk of osteoporosis. Having early menopause can also predispose someone to low bone density.

Other risk factors may include things like having ongoing steroid treatment, a vitamin D deficiency, an overactive thyroid or smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Additionally, medical conditions like lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, multiple myeloma, liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, can also increase a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis.

Luckily, there are a number of things people can do to prevent osteoporosis. Dr Adam Roberts says that early detection is a crucial step in preventing osteoporosis.

You can’t strengthen what’s already gone so the best prevention is not to let the bones get too thin in the first place. Have a bone density scan done if you have any risk factors. Women should consider having a bone density at menopause particularly if they have risk factors.
— Dr Adam Roberts, Endocrinologist, Epworth HealthCare

Calcium intake is also an essential part of maintaining healthy bones. A diet high in calcium will promote the storage of excess calcium in our skeleton, whereas a diet low in calcium will mean that blood is taken from our bones to keep the levels of calcium in our blood at a normal level.

A healthy level of vitamin D is also important for preventing osteoporosis as it helps our bodies absorb and utilise calcium in our skeleton. People with low vitamin D levels can safely and easily treat vitamin D deficiency with supplements.

Exercise is also importance for improving bone density and balance. The ideal exercise for prevention of osteoporosis includes a mix of weight-bearing and strength-training exercise, undertaken on a regular basis. Additionally, making lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol intake and limiting caffeinated drinks, can also help to prevent osteoporosis.

For more information on osteoporosis, support is available at Epworth Geelong Women’s Health Clinic and Jean Hailes at Epworth Freemasons. You can learn more about preventing osteoporosis here.



Isabel Stewart

Contributor

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