Broken bone: could it be osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens your bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. Indeed, more than three million people in the UK are affected by the condition, says the NHS.

World Osteoporosis Day – held this year on October 20 – aims to raise awareness of the condition as well as improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis-related fractures.

According to the event’s organisers, osteoporosis is a growing problem, causing fractures in one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50. The most common osteoporotic fractures are spine fractures, which are also a major cause of pain, disability and loss of quality of life. Yet up to 70 per cent of spine fractures remain undiagnosed, leaving those affected unprotected against the risk of having even more fractures.

If you have a family history of osteoporosis and broken bones, your risk may be higher too. And if you have back pain, height loss or a stooped back, any of these could be a sign of a spine fracture – so don’t ignore it, see your doctor and ask to be referred for tests.

Know your risk

In the meantime, here are some of the things you should know about osteoporosis and how you can help keep your bones healthy.

We all lose bone density as we get older, but if you lose it faster than normal you may go on to have osteoporosis, which develops gradually over several years. Most people don’t realise they have osteoporosis until they break a bone after a minor fall or impact injury. And along with spinal fractures, wrist and hip fractures are also common (though other bones can be affected too).

You may be at risk of losing bone density quickly if you’re affected by one or more of the following:

  • You’re a woman who had an early menopause (before the age of 45)
  • You have family history of osteoporosis
  • You smoke or drink heavily
  • You have a low body mass index (BMI)
  • You have certain medical conditions, including inflammatory conditions, hormone-related conditions or malabsorption problems
  • You’ve been taking certain medications for a long time that can affect bone strength or hormone levels, or you’re a long-term user of high-dose oral corticosteroids

Reduce your risk

If any of the above apply to you, you may want to ask your GP about being assessed for osteoporosis or having a scan to measure your bone density. In the meantime there are several things you can do to help keep your bones healthy, including the following:

  • Stay active (aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week)
  • Eat healthily, making sure you’re getting plenty of bone-health nutrients in your diet (calcium and vitamin D)
  • Take a daily vitamin D supplement – ask your local Careway pharmacist to help you choose the supplement that would be right for you
  • Give up smoking (again your local Careway pharmacist can give you lots of tips and support)
  • Drink in moderation: current guidelines for alcohol intake state you should aim for no more than 14 units of alcohol while trying to have several alcohol-free days each week (visit the Drinkaware website for more help if you think you may be drinking too much).

Find your nearest participating Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.