LIFESTYLE
15/10/2013 06:48 BST | Updated 15/10/2013 12:20 BST

Osteoporosis Focus: Over 50s Break A Bone Every Two Minutes

Bone health is something most people never think about when they are younger, but the National Osteoporosis Society announced some startling figures.

A fracture relating to osteoporosis occurs once every two minutes across the UK, with one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 suffering a break as a result of poor bone health. Stop at One, the charity’s campaign launched today, aims to raise awareness of bone health and tackle the problem of fractures in the over 50s.

Osteoporosis currently affects around three million people in the UK the NHS says, and has been described as a 'preventable epidemic'.

osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis? The NHS describes it as being "a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break (fracture).

"In childhood, bones grow and repair very quickly, but this process slows as you get older. Bones stop growing in length between the ages of 16 and 18, but continue to increase in density until you are in your late 20s. From about the age of 35, you gradually lose bone density. This is a normal part of ageing, but for some people it can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures."

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Various factors can affect whether or not you get osteoporosis - heavy and drinking and smoking can affect your bone health, gland-producing conditions such as under-active or over-active thyroids and genetics. The agreed prevention however, is exercise, healthy eating and cutting down on smoking and drinking.

Professor Bernard Walsh, consultant physician medical directorate for the elderly and Dr Joseph Brown, research fellow in bone health, St James's Hospital wrote in the Independent.ie:

"Calcium and vitamin D, exercise and stopping smoking will be beneficial in maintaining healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis. Most experts agree that calcium intake should be increased during the most important years of bone growth: the pre-teen and teenage years. Vitamin D is increasingly being recognised for its importance in improving bone health."

New research conducted by the National Osteoporosis Society found that a fifth of women don’t receive an osteoporosis diagnosis until after three or more bones have been fractured. The study also suggests that GPs and hospital staff often fail to instigate conversations about bone health with those at risk. One in ten of the group who had suffered more than three broken bones said they had never discussed the condition or bone health with medical professionals treating their fractures.

Women who took part in the survey said:

  • Over half (56%) found it difficult to drive

  • Almost half (49%) had difficulties with housework

  • A third (29%) struggled to easily wash themselves

  • A quarter (25%) found it difficult to cook for themselves

  • One in ten said they have been unable to see friends and family as much

Ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on 20 October, Stop at One urged people to find out more about osteoporosis either by talking to their doctor or by using online resources including a bone health quiz.

Claire Severgnini, chief executive of the National Osteoporosis Society: “Those who are most vulnerable to osteoporosis and fragility fractures are often not aware of the condition or don’t recognise the signs that they are at risk. The condition can have a huge impact on your quality of life, creating unnecessary months of difficulty with everything from daily tasks such as getting washed in the morning, to driving and even enjoying time with loved ones.

Every year, say the charity, there are 89,000 hip fractures linked to osteoporosis which cost the UK £6 million a day in health and social costs. After the first break, one in eight will go on to break another bone within a year and 25% within five years.

Writer, broadcaster and GP, Dr Carol Cooper is an ambassador for the campaign and adds: "I've seen at first hand with my patients, and then with my own mother, how frustrating and debilitating it can be to suffer from broken bones due to osteoporosis.

"The message behind this campaign is that it's better to know as early as possible what your risk is, so that you can protect yourself. Broken bones are a major burden, and in some cases they can be fatal. Every year, thousands of people are dying from avoidable hip fractures.”

Contact the National Osteoporosis Society by phone or online for information, advice and support. Call 0845 450 0230.