IT MAY not be the most dramatic medical condition we might face as we approach retirement age, but osteoporosis is without doubt one of the most common — and potentially most serious.
It is a silent, painless condition where the density of our bones diminishes to the point that a significantly reduced force is required to cause a fracture.
As these fractures often require surgery, long hospital stays and months of rehab, I think it is safe to assume we would all like to enjoy our retirement without the fear that one wrong step or fall could result in being out of action for several months.
Our bones are at their strongest when we are in our twenties.
From around the age of 40, they begin to slowly weaken decade by decade.
If a person's bones were never that strong when they were younger, or they start to weaken at a greater rate than is typical, then without action, a diagnosis of osteoporosis is unfortunately not far away.
According to the World Health Organisation, 55 per cent of men and 49 per cent of women between the ages of 50 and 69 are already osteopenic, which is a diagnosis of ‘moderate’ bone weakening, and a precursor to osteoporosis.
The hormone changes associated with menopause can result in a sharp acceleration of bone loss in women.
Other risk factors include lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking and diet, medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes, or long term use of certain medications such as corticosteroids.
It is a great idea for everyone over the age of 50 to have a chat with their GP about their risk factors for osteoporosis.
Your GP should also be your first stop once you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis as it is a complex medical condition, and different treatment options are available.
One thing that everyone can do for their bones, regardless of whether they are osteoporotic or not, is resistance training and weight bearing exercises.
This type of training puts higher forces through your bones than you would usually put through them in your normal activities as well as other exercise options.
Lots of studies have shown that resistance exercise completed 2-3 times per week for a few months can slow or stop the development of osteoporosis for those at risk, as well as strengthen the bones of those who already have it.
So if you are over the age of 50, I suggest speaking to your local physiotherapist or exercise physiologist about a safe, effective resistance exercise program to look after your bones for the long term.
Pat Arnold, Echuca Moama Physiotherapay on 5480 0860 (Echuca/Rochester) and 5852 1638 (Kyabram).