World Osteoporosis Day (WOD), observed October 20 each year, marks a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. WOD aims to make osteoporosis and fracture prevention a global health priority by reaching out to health-care professionals, the media, policy makers, patients, and the public at large. The campaign will feature “THAT’S OSTEOPOROSIS” as a headline, highlighting emotionally impactful visuals and stories of real people living with osteoporosis in all regions of the world.
The campaign will emphasize the direct link between osteoporosis (the silent, underlying disease) and broken bones, which have a serious, life-changing impact in terms of pain, disability and lost independence. It will also focus on osteoporosis as a ‘family affair’, with family caregivers often carrying the burden of care, and the disease affecting multiple generations of the family.
Fast Facts About Osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis is the hidden, underlying cause of painful, debilitating and life-threatening fractures
- The most common of osteoporotic fractures are spine (vertebral) fractures, a major cause of pain, disability and loss of quality of life
- Up to 70% of spine fractures remain undiagnosed, leaving sufferers unprotected against the high risk of more fractures
- Back pain, height-loss and stooped back are all possible signs of spine fractures – ask for testing and treatment!
- A family history of osteoporosis and broken bones is a sign that you too may be at higher risk
- Osteoporosis is a growing global problem that respects no boundaries: worldwide, fractures affect one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle a fall or even mild stresses, such as bending over or coughing, can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone.
Osteoporosis is one of the most common diseases, affecting the bones of more than 10 million Americans with another 30 million at risk. Its name comes from Latin for “porous bones.”
Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.
What are the symptoms of Osteoporosis?
There typically are no symptoms in the initial stages of bone loss. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may have signs and symptoms that include:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected
What causes Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis weakens bone. Your bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made, and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 20s. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.
The inside of a healthy bone has small spaces, like a honeycomb. Osteoporosis increases the size of these spaces, causing the bone to lose strength and density. In addition, the outside of the bone grows weaker and thinner.
What are the risk factors of Osteoporosis?
How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
A number of factors can increase the likelihood that you’ll develop osteoporosis — including your age, race, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions and treatments.
Some risk factors for osteoporosis are out of your control, including:
- Your sex. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
- Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
- Race. You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent.
- Family history. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father experienced a hip fracture.
- Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies. Examples include:
Sex hormones. Lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bone. The reduction of estrogen levels in women at menopause is one of the strongest risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Men experience a gradual reduction in testosterone levels as they age. Treatments for prostate cancer that reduce testosterone levels in men and treatments for breast cancer that reduce estrogen levels in women are likely to accelerate bone loss.
Thyroid problems. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur if your thyroid is overactive or if you take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid.
Other glands. Osteoporosis has also been associated with overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands.
Osteoporosis is more likely to occur in people who have:
- Low calcium intake. A lifelong lack of calcium plays a role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
- Eating disorders. Severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens bone in both men and women.
- Gastrointestinal surgery. Surgery to reduce the size of your stomach or to remove part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium.
Steroids and other medications
Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process. Osteoporosis has also been associated with medications used to combat or prevent:
- Gastric reflux
- Transplant rejection
- Medical conditions
The risk of osteoporosis is higher in people who have certain medical problems, including:
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Kidney or liver disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Lifestyle choices
Some bad habits can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Examples include:
Sedentary lifestyle. People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active. Any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture are beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.
Excessive alcohol consumption. Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis.
Tobacco use. The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clearly understood, but it has been shown that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
How does osteoporosis cause vertebrae to crumple and collapse?
Bone fractures, particularly in the spine or hip, are the most serious complication of osteoporosis. Hip fractures often are caused by a fall and can result in disability and even an increased risk of death within the first year after the injury.
In some cases, spinal fractures can occur even if you haven’t fallen. The bones that make up your spine (vertebrae) can weaken to the point that they may crumple, which can result in back pain, lost height and a hunched forward posture.
How can you prevent Osteoporosis?
Good nutrition and regular exercise are essential for keeping your bones healthy throughout your life.
Protein is one of the building blocks of bone. And while most people get plenty of protein in their diets, some do not. Vegetarians and vegans can get enough protein in the diet if they intentionally seek suitable sources, such as soy, nuts, legumes, and dairy and eggs if allowed. Older adults may also eat less protein for assorted reasons. Protein supplementation is an option.
Being underweight increases the chance of bone loss and fractures. Excess weight is now known to increase the risk of fractures in your arm and wrist. As such, maintaining an appropriate body weight is good for bones just as it is for health in general.
Men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. This daily amount increases to 1,200 milligrams when women turn 50 and men turn 70. Reliable sources of calcium include:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Canned salmon or sardines with bones
- Soy products, such as tofu
- Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice
If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, consider taking calcium supplements. However, too much calcium has been linked to kidney stones. Although yet unclear, some experts suggest that too much calcium especially in supplements can increase the risk of heart disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends that total calcium intake, from supplements and diet combined, should be no more than 2,000 milligrams daily for people older than 50.
Vitamin D improves your body’s ability to absorb calcium and improves bone health in other ways. People can get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, but this may not be a reliable source if you live in a high latitude, if you’re housebound, or if you regularly use sunscreen or avoid the sun entirely because of the risk of skin cancer.
Scientists don’t yet know the optimal daily dose of vitamin D for each person. A good starting point for adults is 600 to 800 international units (IU) a day, through food or supplements. For people without other sources of vitamin D and especially with limited sun exposure, a supplement may be needed. Most multivitamin products contain between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D. Up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day is safe for most people.
An added benefit of dosing vitamin D is the potential, currently being researched, it will help you ward off coronavirus.
Exercise can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. Exercise will benefit your bones no matter when you start, but you’ll gain the most benefits if you start exercising regularly when you’re young and continue to exercise throughout your life.
Combine strength training exercises with weight-bearing and balance exercises. Strength training helps strengthen muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine, and weight-bearing exercises — such as walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope, skiing and impact-producing sports — affect mainly the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine. Balance exercises such as tai chi can reduce your risk of falling especially as you get older.
Swimming, cycling and exercising on machines such as elliptical trainers can provide a good cardiovascular workout, but they’re not as helpful for improving bone health.
When to see a doctor
You may want to talk to your doctor about osteoporosis if you went through early menopause or took corticosteroids for several months at a time, or if either of your parents had hip fractures.
Key messages of World Osteoporosis Day 2020
Osteoporosis is the underlying cause of painful, debilitating and life-threatening broken bones – known as fragility fractures.
Osteoporosis is a growing global problem: worldwide, fractures affect one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50.
Osteoporosis affects families – family members often bear the burden of care
If one of your parents had osteoporosis or hip fracture, this may increase your own risk of developing the disease. Take the IOF Osteoporosis Risk Check to identify your risk factors.
At risk? Be sure to request a bone health assessment – take early action for prevention!
Bone health concerns the entire family – ensure your family maintains a bone healthy lifestyle.
Advocate! Sign the IOF Global Patient Charter and join in calling on healthcare providers to close the massive ‘care gap’ which leaves many patients unprotected against a cycle of disabling fractures.
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Scott Rivers, is the Managing Director at Cerca Talent+, a Global Recruitment Solutions firm, where he directs the Diagnostics, Device and Genetics Talent Acquisition activities for the organization. Scott’s background as a recruiter, search firm owner and industry sales and marketing director, gives him an inequitable advantage in today’s talent market. Regarded as an expert in Talent Acquisition and Employment Technology, Scott has consulted some of the largest companies in the world on how best to implement talent acquisition strategies into daily practice.
Scott’s past experiences include senior sales and marketing roles at global organizations including Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson. His last industry position was the Global Director of Oncology Marketing at a Johnson & Johnson Company. There, he was responsible for all upstream and downstream marketing activities pertaining to the molecular oncology products of the organization.