What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a chronic condition that weakens bones over time, making them more likely to break.2 It’s often called the silent disease because there are usually no signs or pain until the first break.2 Osteoporosis means bones have become porous (sieve-like). If left untreated osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle and fragile.2
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Who does osteoporosis affect?
Osteoporosis is more common than people think and can be hugely debilitating. Despite pervasive myths, osteoporosis doesn’t just affect women, men can get it too. Two in three Australians aged over 50 years are affected by osteoporosis or have ‘thin bones’ that can lead to osteoporosis.1
After menopause women are at greater risk than men because of the rapid decline in oestrogen levels. When oestrogen levels decrease, bones lose calcium and other minerals at a much faster rate. Men also lose bone as they age; however, testosterone levels in men decline more gradually, so their bone mass remains adequate until much later in life.2
Know the risks
The first stage of bone loss is called osteopenia. This affects nearly 6.3 million Australians.2 Osteopenia is a sign that your bones are at risk. If you have osteopenia, you have lower bone density than normal.
Many people might not realise they are at risk of a fragility fracture such as a broken bone as a result of a fall from a standing height or less. Did you know that if you have had one minimal trauma fracture you are at double the risk of another broken bone within the following 12 months?2
The Fracture Cascade
If you have had one minimal-trauma fracture you have double the risk of another fracture within the next 12 months. This is called the ‘cascade effect’.2
Who is at risk of osteoporosis?
Both men and women can develop osteoporosis. However, women who have gone through menopause are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis earlier than men. There are a number of reasons – their bones tend to be smaller and the rapid drop in hormone levels during menopause leads to earlier bone loss.2
Men have some specific risk factors – low levels of testosterone increase the chance of developing osteoporosis. Low testosterone levels can occur due to ageing and certain medications, like therapy for prostate cancer.2
Many people don’t realise they have osteoporosis until a simple fall breaks or fractures a bone.2
Don’t wait for a fall to see if you have it. Take control of your bone health today and make an appointment with your doctor.
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- Watts JJ, et al. Osteoporosis costing all Australians - A new burden of disease analysis 2012 to 2022. Osteoporosis Australia, 2013.
- Osteoporosis Australia. What you need to know about osteoporosis. Consumer guide. 2017. www.osteoporosis.org.au. [Accessed 1 October 2020]