The Reliance GP Blog

Osteoporosis: Not just for the elderly. Why you might need a bone density scan
Missy Tysoe October 11, 2017

Osteoporosis: Not just for the elderly. Why you might need a bone density scan.

When we hear the word “osteoporosis” we often dismiss the idea that we have anything to worry about – at least until we hit 70, right? Wrong.Osteoporosis is a bone disease that affects more than 1 in every 3 women and 1 in every 5 men. There are many risk factors that affect both men and women of all ages, such as previous  fractures, certain medications, lack of sunlight, insufficient calcium and hormone imbalances. Add other lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol to the mix and the risk is higher again. Certain medical conditions can play a role too, even those that you may not suspect are related to your bone density, such as digestive malabsorption (tummy problems). Reliance Chiropractor, Dr Angus Steventon explores our frequently asked questions about this silent disease.

What is osteoporosis?

66% of Australian men and women over the age of 50 have low bone mineral density, and most don’t realise. The most severe form of this, osteoporosis, affects over 1 million Australians. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become thinner, more fragile and more likely to break, even as a result of a minor fall, a bump or sneeze. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can be life threatening and may result in significant ongoing pain and long-term disability. Osteoporotic fractures are so common that in Australia 1 fracture occurs every 3.5 minutes, which probably equates to about 2 fractures since you’ve been checking out the Reliance website, and 395 fractures by the end of today.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle

Who is at risk?

Some of the risk factors for poor bone density and osteoporosis are well known, like having a family history of osteoporosis, low dietary calcium, low vitamin D, being female, or early menopause. Most people don’t realise that there are many other risk factors, such as not doing enough exercise or smoking. There are a number of factors that can affect young people as well as older people, such as excessive alcohol intake, being underweight, thyroid conditions, lower hormone levels,  long-term use of some medications such as corticosteroids and antidepressants, some chronic diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver or kidney diseases) and malabsorption conditions such as coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

What should I do?

If any of the risk factors mentioned above apply to you or your family you should book an appointment to speak with your GP on 43 041 333 or via the appointuit app on our homepage. In particular, anyone who experiences a broken bone from a minor bump or fall should be investigated for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is not just an “old lady disease”. Almost a quarter of all people with osteoporosis are men, and we have seen many men and women in their 50’s diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a silent disease and often remains undiagnosed, even when a fracture has occurred, particularly if it is in the upper back. The good news however is that osteoporosis can be prevented, diagnosed and managed if action is taken early. Regular exercise, consuming enough bone-healthy nutrients, avoiding negative lifestyle habits, identifying your risk factors, having a non-invasive and pain-free bone density scan, and taking osteoporosis medication if prescribed, are key steps for prevention and treatment. Within our network of Reliance Health Clinics we have a number of Allied Health Professionals, such as dietitians, exercise physiologists, physiotherapists and chiropractors who can help you take those steps.

How can I check my bone density?

Riverside Medical Imaging, located within the Reliance GP Superclinic at West Gosford, conducts bone density scans— the gold-standard for measuring bone density and diagnosing osteopenia and osteoporosis. This simple scan measures the density and quality of your bones— usually at the hip and spine— and takes approximately 10-15 minutes. Ask your GP for a referral to Riverside Medical Imaging (RMI), then visit the RMI desk at the GP Super Clinic or call (02) 4323 9200 for an appointment.

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