How Osteoporosis Affects Bone Density

Osteoporosis is a health issue affecting 4.74 million Australians today. It’s estimated that someone breaks a bone every 3.4 minutes due to poor bone health.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. By taking preventative measures to keep bones healthy, Osteoporosis can be avoided. At Queensland Diagnostic Imaging in Varsity Lakes, our team of radiologists are passionate advocates for reducing the spread of this chronic and degenerative disease.

The prevention of Osteoporosis begins with awareness. Read on to discover what Osteoporosis is, how to avoid it, and where to find out your risk factors for developing it.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the strength and structure of bones. It reduces bone mass density, making bones thinner and more brittle. It affects all bones in the body, however the ones most commonly affected include the hip, spinal vertebrae, and wrist.

Those with early signs of bone loss are classified as having a condition called Osteopenia. This condition refers to a bone mineral density that is considered lower than normal, but not low enough to be classified as Osteoporosis. Osteopenia can be managed, however if it is left to worsen, it will progress into Osteoporosis.

Those affected face a higher risk of breaking a bone in a fall, or even a forceful knock. This can greatly affect quality of life especially in the elderly, as bones can become so brittle that even a violent coughing fit can result in a fracture.

Who does Osteoporosis affect?

Osteoporosis can affect both men and women. It affects a whopping 1 in 10 Australians over 50, with 4 times as many women over 50 affected compared with men of the same age. This is believed to be due to the drop in oestrogen levels around the time of menopause. Men become more at risk in their 70s when their testosterone levels decrease.

With Queensland’s elderly population topping 100,000 and growing each year, it’s a health crisis the specialists at Queensland Diagnostic Imaging help patients combat every day in their Varsity Lakes practice.

How does Osteoporosis affect bones?

Your bones are in a constant cycle of renewal. Certain cells are tasked with breaking down bone (known as resorb), while other cells are in charge of forming new bone. This continuous process needs to remain balanced in order to maintain optimal bone health.

However, certain influences can cause your bones to resorb at a greater rate than they build.

These factors include:

  • Age – The cells in our bones start to reduce new bone formation after the age of 30.
  • Genetics – People with a family history of osteoporosis are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Hormonal changes – Lower levels of oestrogen and testosterone can influence bone density.
  • Physical health – Lack of exercise reduces stimulation to the cells which form new bone.
  • Mineral deficiencies – Calcium and Vitamin D are essential to maintaining healthy bones.

Common risk factors for developing Osteoporosis

Although everybody experiences a reduction in bone density as they get older, certain people are more susceptible to developing Osteoporosis due to behavioural or environmental factors.

Common risk factors include:

  • Smoking.
  • Drinking excessively.
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Taking certain medications (such as corticosteroids).
  • Certain medical conditions (such as auto-immune diseases).
  • Being excessively overweight or underweight.

Maintaining healthy bones

For many people, Osteoporosis isn’t diagnosed until they break a bone after a minor knock or fall. But prevention is better than cure – it’s never too early to start taking care of your bone health.

Here’s how:

  • Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of sunshine a day.
  • Eat a healthy diet including lots of essential nutrients.
  • Include sources of calcium in your diet.
  • Take supplements (Calcium & Vitamin D) if your diet is lacking.
  • Don’t smoke, and keep drinking to a minimum.
  • Exercise regularly – weight-bearing activities are particularly beneficial.

How is Osteoporosis diagnosed?

As Osteoporosis has no visible symptoms, it’s often not until a fracture occurs that a diagnosis is made. Naturally, it’s preferable to diagnose the condition before any such accidents occur, so those affected can take precautions to reduce their risk of injury.

A Bone Mineral Densitometry (BMD), commonly called a Bone Density Scan, is used to measure bone loss via a series of low energy x-rays. The results of these images indicate your bone density score – also known as a T-score.

Your T-score indicates the severity of bone fragility by measuring your bone density against the average number of units recommended for your age. Queensland Diagnostic Imaging offer bone density scans at Varsity Lakes on the Gold Coast, making diagnosis more available to residents of Queensland.

Recommended treatments

Treatment for Osteoporosis typically focuses on preventing fractures from occurring in the first place. Therefore, health and lifestyle improvements such as quitting smoking, increasing nutrition, and taking supplements are an important part of any prevention plan.

Certain medications such as Bisphosphonates can also be prescribed by your doctor, depending on your bone density T-score and any other relevant health factors. However, they can have side-effects, so you should talk to your doctor about which treatment plan is best for you.

Where to book your Bone Density Scan

Queensland Diagnostic Imaging offers bone density scanning at Varsity Lakes, which is just outside Robina on the Gold Coast.

To book your Bone Density test, contact us at Varsity Lakes on 07 5585 3700.

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