The density, quality and strength of our bones diminish as we age. This leads to weakness in the bone and they are liable to fracture, often after minimal trauma or even just spontaneously. Osteoporosis itself is not painful, but pain can result from the fracture and be debilitating or lead to hospital admission, for instance, for surgery if it is a hip that breaks.
Osteoporosis is a very common condition in the community. It is likely to get more common as the population ages. It affects women more than men, and for women the loss of bone density accelerates after the menopause.
There are several specific medical conditions that can cause osteoporosis, as well as some medications. Your doctor will screen for these and advise you accordingly.
The best strategies for maximising bone density is to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy body weight, especially avoiding being underweight, ensure a good intake of calcium in your diet (see chart below) throughout life, and a good vitamin D intake or safe sun exposure. For women particularly, a good calcium intake from early adulthood is the best insurance for satisfactory bone density in later years.
Prescribed calcium supplements are no longer recommended due to increased heart side-efects associated with their use. Twenty minutes of sun exposure a day will maintain good vitamin D levels.
Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a special x-ray called a DEXA scan. If the scan shows your bone density to be low, and therefore at increased risk of fracture, then treatment can be given to improve the strength of the bones. One such treatment is an intra-venous injection of Aclasta, which may only need to be given once every 12 to 18 months.
A fully trained nurse will manage your intravenous Aclasta annual injection to improve your bone health.
View the New Zealand Osteoporosis website here.