I believe that everyone over 50 who suffers a broken bone should be assessed for osteoporosis. If this happened, we could prevent a huge amount of the pain and suffering that osteoporosis can cause people. An estimated three million people in the UK have osteoporosis and a recent member survey revealed that a fifth of women who have fractured sustain three or more breaks before being diagnosed.
If osteoporosis is left undiagnosed it goes untreated, the condition worsens and people are unable to take steps to protect themselves. After the first break, one in eight will go on to break another bone within a year and 25% within five years. Over the years I have been working with the National Osteoporosis Society, I've come to learn that, more often than not, people don't even think to consider themselves as being at risk of osteoporosis. Someone will break a bone, go to A&E, be put in plaster and recover, completely unaware that their broken bone could be due to osteoporosis.
That's why we, as a charity, are setting out our ambition to increase the number of Fracture Liaison Services (FLS), which currently only exist in 44% of NHS trusts and health boards in the UK.
An FLS is dedicated clinical service where a specialist nurse will work with the hospital and GPs to identify people at risk of osteoporosis and invite them for an assessment, referring them for help where necessary. This service can have a huge impact on the quality of life for people with osteoporosis; it plays a crucial role in identifying the condition and reducing the pain and suffering caused by broken bones.
We want people with osteoporosis to be identified after one break and receive the treatment and care they need. In order to do that, the provision of FLSs needs to increase drastically. If every individual over 50 who breaks a bone is identified and treated, 22,250 hip fractures a year could be prevented.
While we continue to campaign for more FLSs, there are some questions that you can ask yourself, to find out if you could be at risk:
• Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with osteoporosis?
• Have you ever broken a bone after a minor bump or fall?
• Are you female and aged over 50?
• Do you drink more than 3 units of alcohol each day?
• Do you miss out on summer sunlight (through being housebound, avoiding the sun, always covering your skin or wearing sunscreen?)
• Do you miss out on doing at least 30 minutes of activity five times a week?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, then you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis and the broken bones it causes. You should find out more either by taking our 'Am I at risk?' quiz or by speaking to your GP.
I'm always keen to remind people that osteoporosis can be treated and there are simple things you can do to help keep your bones healthy, whatever your age.
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