It can happen suddenly without warning – just a small bump or fall and before you know it you’ve got a painful fracture. If you’re an older woman, it’s quite likely osteoporosis is the reason behind your fracture.
Osteoporosis, which means porous bones, causes bones to become weak and brittle. So brittle that even doing little things like bending over, lifting a vacuum or coughing can cause a fracture. Usually, your bones weaken when they’re low on calcium, phosphorous and other minerals.
Health experts estimate around half of Australian women and one third of Australian men over 60 will get a fracture from osteoporosis.
The good news about osteoporosis is that it’s never too late to do something about it. If you’re a woman and haven’t reached menopause, you can take measures to prevent osteoporosis from silently robbing your bones’ strength. For both older men and women, tests can help catch the disease in its early stages.
Osteoporosis – the silent thief
Osteoporosis doesn’t show many signs or symptoms in its early stages. In fact, a lot of people don’t know they’ve got it until they get a fracture. That’s why osteoporosis is sometimes called the silent thief. In the later stages you might get symptoms which include:
- Back pain
- A loss of height over time, with a stooped posture
- Fractures – the most common bones fractured are the hip, wrist, spine and pelvis
Why do our bones get weaker?
How strong your bones are depends on their mass and density. Bone density has been partly linked to how much calcium, phosphorus and other minerals bones contain. When your bones contain less of these minerals, they start to weaken.The process has to do with how bone is made. Your bones are constantly remodelling, breaking down old bone and making new bone. This is called bone turnover. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. People usually reach their peak bone mass in their mid-30s. After that, bone remodelling continues. But you lose slightly more than you gain. Not getting enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet can speed up the process. At menopause bone loss accelerates slightly, when oestrogen levels drop.