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The Fight Against Osteoporosis in the Community

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Osteoporosis is a common condition, especially among the elderly. However, it can affect anyone- young or old, men or women. The rising trend of osteoporosis worldwide indicates a need for greater awareness to improve bone health. In Singapore, the need for greater awareness of good bone health becomes extremely important because of its rapidly ageing population. So what exactly is osteoporosis and how can you prevent it?

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis literally translates to ‘porous bone.’ It is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both, making them fragile and more likely to break. 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 loss of old bone. Osteoporosis develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break or fracture. Most of these fractures commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.

What are the symptoms?

Usually, there are no symptoms in the early stages of osteoporosis. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you might 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 that breaks much more easily than expected

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pain in lower back

What causes Osteoporosis?

Throughout our lives, our bones are constantly being renewed, with new bone replacing old bone- and this helps to keep our skeleton strong. After your early 20s this process slows down, and most people reach peak bone mass around the age of 30. And as people age, bone mass is lost faster than it's created. But for people diagnosed with osteoporosis, they lose bone much faster than what’s being replaced- even though they may not be 30 years old yet. This increases their risk of broken bones as it gradually becomes more brittle and more likely to break.

How can we prevent osteoporosis?

Good nutrition and regular exercise are essential for keeping your bones healthy throughout your life.

  • Healthy Eating – including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D

  • Supplements - Calcium and Vitamin D

  • Lifestyle Changes – such as giving up smoking and reducing alcohol consumption

  • EXERCISE!!! - Regular exercise can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. Combine strength training exercises with weight-bearing and balance exercises.

What type of exercises can help?

Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are beneficial for developing and sustaining bone density, as well as boosting muscle strength, balance, and coordination, which can lower the likelihood of falls and fractures. Walking, jogging, hiking, and dancing are some examples of weight-bearing exercises, whereas resistance exercises may entail utilising weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges. It is crucial to seek guidance from a healthcare professional prior to commencing a new exercise regimen, especially if you have osteoporosis or other medical conditions.

If you intend to start an exercise regime, remember to seek a professional who is certified to train someone with osteoporosis (otherwise you risk fractures or broken bones). Seek help from experienced and trained Physiotherapists who are able to customise exercises that can suit your condition and help you manage your osteoporosis.

Why are people so concerned about osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis poses a significant health threat as it weakens bones and elevates the likelihood of fractures, especially in the hip, spine, and wrist. Such fractures can result in chronic pain, disability, and a reduced quality of life. In severe instances, fractures can even cause long-term disability or premature death.

Given its prevalence among postmenopausal women and older adults, it is crucial to heighten awareness of osteoporosis and its risk factors. Taking preventative measures, such as adopting healthy lifestyle practices and seeking appropriate medical intervention, is essential for ensuring strong, healthy bones.

If you already have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, what should you do?

While there is no cure for osteoporosis, you can get treatment through medicines to strengthen your bones and prevent future broken bones. You should continue eating well, getting enough exercise, avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, and not smoking. Make sure that you follow the suggestions of your healthcare provider.

You should also reduce your chances of a fall, such as removing hazards from your home and having regular sight tests and hearing tests.

A combined approach of medication and exercise can potentially yield optimal outcomes in treating osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates, teriparatide, and denosumab are examples of medications that can mitigate bone loss and boost bone density. Meanwhile, exercise can fortify bones, enhance balance, and lower the risk of falls and fractures. Combining medication and exercise may be more efficacious than either intervention in isolation.

Moving beyond just osteoporosis, how can we empower the community to maintain a healthy lifestyle while raising awareness on Osteoporosis?

Communities can engage in several efforts to combat osteoporosis, including disseminating knowledge on the condition and its risk factors, advocating healthy lifestyle practices like consistent exercise and a calcium and vitamin D-rich diet, and encouraging the timely identification and management of osteoporosis via routine bone density screenings. Community-based initiatives and programmes aimed at improving bone health can also play a pivotal role in mitigating osteoporosis. These programmes can also offer incentives for eating healthy or completing a certain number of exercises a week. An example of an initiative would be HPB’s ‘Community Model’ walking trail to integrate bite-sized physical activity into daily life.

Everyone has a part to play. But as a rule of thumb, it is always good to start early, start young and start now. Because after all, prevention is always better than cure! So start maintaining a healthy diet and an active lifestyle now, whether or not you are at risk of osteoporosis.

But if you or anyone you know suffers from osteoporosis and are looking for help, our team of certified and trained Physiotherapists at Thrive Healthcare are here to help!

Get in touch with us and we can help you build your strength.


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