Osteoporosis is a condition whereby thinning of bones occurs and they consequently become brittle. Patients with osteoporosis are more likely to sustain fractures with minimal trauma or injury, for example, a rib fracture caused by coughing or a hip fracture after falling from a low height. It is estimated that by the age of 80, 51% of Australian women and 19% of Australian men have evidence of osteoporosis.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include age (>45 for women and > 50 for men), family history, smoking, high alcohol intake, low body weight and low levels of physical activity. Certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthiritis and coeliac disease also increase the risk of osteoporosis. Medications such as steroids may also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
You can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis by undertaking regular weight bearing exercises such as jogging and dancing, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, having a healthy diet which includes an adequate amount of calcium rich food and maintaining a good level of vitamin D by getting regular, healthy exposure to sunlight.
If you are at increased risk of osteoporosis or are concerned, contact your doctor to discuss this further. If appropriate, your doctor may also order further investigations and discuss treatment options with you.