This blog is about Bone Health. What are bones made of? How can we keep our bones healthy over time? What is osteoporosis and who should be concerned about it? If you are interested in the answers to these questions, read on!
Bones are a living material. They are constantly being remodeled according to the stresses we place on them. Throughout life, old bone tissue is broken down and removed, and new bone tissue is added. The bone “remodeling” process is regulated by hormones including calcitonin, parathyroid hormone, Vitamin D, oestrogen (in women) and testosterone (in men).
The protein collagen provides the soft framework for bone flexibility. The mineral calcium phosphate gives bone its strength. There are many sizes and shapes of bones in the human body. All have a compact, hard outer cortex and a spongy, honeycombed inner. Under certain conditions, the inner honeycombed material may lose an excessive amount of its protein and mineral content, particularly calcium. In osteoporosis, bone mass and therefore bone strength is reduced, which increases the risk of fracture. The most common sites for osteoporotic fractures are the hip, spine and wrist. (Osteoporosis is different to osteoarthritis, which we shall look at in a later blog post).
Osteoporosis affects men as well as women. Women lose bone mineral density more rapidly once they have reached menopause, when oestrogen levels become lower. Around 23% of people with osteoporosis are men. Osteoporosis is known as the “silent disease” because people often only become aware of it after their first fracture.
You can ask your doctor to refer you for a bone mineral density test (also known as bone densitometry). The test is usually quick and painless and you may be eligible for a subsidy.
People with osteoporosis are particularly vulnerable to injury with a fall, and are well advised to take preventive measures. Vitamin D, Calcium and weight bearing activity (that is, lifting weight against gravity) all help to maintain bone mineral density. If you already have osteoporosis, your doctor will probably advise the use of supplemental Vitamin D and Calcium as well.
To find out more about Bone Health and other ways to stay independent, healthy and safe, consider joining your local Stay Standing Program. Visit the Find a Stay Standing Program page on this website or contact us for assistance.