Osteoporosis? Are YOU at risk

MC&A October Newsletter

Are you at risk of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis? Are you at risk

A Word from Best Doctors

Bone health should be top of mind for all Canadians, regardless of age. That’s because osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become thin and porous, is strikingly common. Consider this: one in three women and one in five men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. In fact, fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined(1).

While many of us may associate osteoporosis with old age, it’s a condition that can strike at any time, and it is insidious – bone loss occurs without any symptoms. Osteoporosis is also costly: each hip fracture costs the health care system $21,285 in the first year after hospitalization, and $44,156 if the patient is institutionalized. Osteoporosis causes 70–90% of the 30,000 hip fractures Canadians suffer annually(2).

The goal of Osteoporosis Awareness Month, which takes place in November, is to educate Canadians about the disease. Promoting bone health can go a long way towards ensuring Canadians of all ages focus on building and maintaining strong bones for life.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, which leads to increased bone fragility and the risk of fracture, particularly of the hip, spine, wrist and shoulder. Osteoporosis can result in disfigurement, reduction or loss of mobility, and decreased independence.

Sometimes confused with osteoarthritis, osteoporosis is a bone disease, while osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue. A person may have both conditions at the same time.

Osteoporosis develops over a long period of time – you can lose bone mass steadily for many years without experiencing any symptoms of the disease until a bone fractures. If osteoporosis is first diagnosed when a fracture occurs, it is at a fairly advanced stage. This is why early detection of bone loss is critical in preventing osteoporotic fractures.

Factors affecting bone health

Several factors impact bone health and your risk of osteoporosis. These include:

Calcium intake – A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.

Physical activity – Physically inactive people have a higher risk of osteoporosis.

Gender, size and age – Women have less bone tissue than men, so they are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Extremely thin people or those with a small body frame are also at greater risk. Age is a factor because bones become thinner and weaker as you age.

Family history – Having a parent or sibling who has osteoporosis puts you at greater risk.

Hormone levels – Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. In women, dropping estrogen levels during menopause leads to an increase in bone loss.

Eating disorders and other conditions – People with anorexia or bulimia are at risk of bone loss. Conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and Cushing’s disease can also affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

Are you at risk for osteoporosis?

A BMD test measures how much calcium and other minerals are in an area of your bone. This can help your health care provider detect osteoporosis and predict your risk of bone fractures. There are drug treatments available for people suffering from osteoporosis. The main goal of treatment is to reduce fractures.


  • 37% of men and 28% of women who suffer a hip fracture will die within the following year
  • One in three hip fracture patients will re-fracture at one year and over 1 in 2 will suffer another fracture within 5 years
  • The number of days missed from work (in Canada) for individuals aged 50 to 69 years due to osteoporosis related fractures is estimated at 3,123,298 days
  • By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fracture is projected to increase by 310% in men and 240% in women.

Building healthy bones

Bones are constantly changing – new bone is made while old bone is broken down. While it’s especially important to build strong bones during childhood and adolescence, there are steps you can take during adulthood to protect bone health.

Bone mass increases when you’re young and most people reach the peak around age 30. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you lose slightly more bone than you gain. The likelihood of developing osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass is attained by age 30 and how rapidly you lose bone mass after that.

You can help prevent or slow bone loss by taking a few simple steps:

Ensure your diet is rich in calcium – Good sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, and canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products. If you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, consider taking supplements.

Include vitamin D in your diet – Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Good sources include oily fish such as tuna or sardines, egg yolks and fortified milk. The body also produces vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight.

Get active daily – You can slow bone loss by incorporating weight-bearing exercises into your daily routine, such as walking, jogging or weight lifting.

Avoid substance abuse – Regularly having more than two alcoholic drinks a day also increases the risk of osteoporosis, because alcohol can potentially interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

1 Osteoporosis Canada, http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/ osteoporosis-facts-and-statistics/
2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/bone-health/ art-20045060

excerpts provided by: Best Doctors Report – 2015

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