Updated 04 July 2014

Post-menopausal women unaware of osteoporosis risk

Worldwide, an estimated 200 million women are affected by osteoporosis and with an increasingly ageing population this number is set to rise dramatically.

Worldwide one in three women over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis, yet many women fail to take preventative measures as they are unaware of their increased risk after menopause, the president of the International Osteoporosis Foundation, Prof John A Kanis has warned.

World Osteoporosis Day takes place on 20 October and the foundation has called on women to take action now to protect their bone health.

Broken bones due to osteoporosis often result in pain, immobility and loss of quality of life as well as early death.

In women over the age of 45, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, heart attack or breast cancer.

The good news is that by knowing their risk early, women can take action to prevent and control osteoporosis.

Quality of life compromised

Worldwide, an estimated 200 million women are affected by osteoporosis – a disease that causes bones to become weak and easily prone to fractures – and with an increasingly ageing population this number is set to rise dramatically.

Unless something is done, future generations may live longer but their quality of life will be seriously compromised. Although women of any age may be at risk, at menopause women are especially vulnerable as they experience rapid bone loss.

Kanis said: "Osteoporosis is a serious threat to women's health – worldwide one in three women over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis. Yet too many women are unaware of their increased risk after menopause and fail to take preventive measures."

Fruit and vegetables

The foundation recommends five essential strategies to help maintain bone and muscle strength in later life:
1) Exercise 30 - 40 minutes, three to four times per week and ensure a mix of resistance training and weight-bearing exercise. As you age, resistance training (e.g. using elastic bands, weight machines) becomes increasingly important.

2) Ensure a bone-healthy diet that includes enough dietary calcium and protein with enough fruit and vegetables to balance the increased need for protein. Make sure you're getting enough vitamin D too – through sunlight, diet, and supplementation if required.

3) Avoid negative habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake and maintain a healthy body weight. Women who are underweight are at higher risk compared to those with a normal body mass index.

4) Find out whether you may have personal factors that increase your risk of osteoporosis. Common risk factors include early menopause before the age of 45, use of glucocorticoids, rheumatoid arthritis, malabsorption disorders (e.g. coeliac or Crohn's disease), previous fragility fracture, or a family history of osteoporosis and fractures.

5) Menopause is the critical time to get your doctor to assess your bone health status. Ask for a fracture risk assessment (e.g. FRAX) and, if indicated, take a bone mineral density test. If treatment is prescribed ensure that you adhere to your therapy.

The CEO of the Foundation, Judy Stenmark, said: "Women are the pillars of strength for their families and communities. I urge all women approaching menopause to take action regarding bone health now in order to enjoy good quality of life and independence long into the future."

Sponsored in 2013 by unrestricted educational grants from Fonterra, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Amgen/GSK, Lilly

(Photo of osteoporosis patient from Shutterstock)

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Healthy Bones

Tereza is the CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and worked as a Nursing Sister in the field of Osteoporosis for 18 years prior to her appointment with the Foundation. She used to be the Educational Officer for the Foundation and co-wrote the patient brochure on Osteoporosis. Read more

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