Ireland has one of the highest osteoporosis rates globally. It is estimated that up to 300,000 people in Ireland have osteoporosis. Although more common in females who have gone through menopause, it can also affect men, children and athletes.
Bone is a living tissue that the body continually removes and replaces. As we get older, this process slows down, and usually more bone is lost than formed. However, some people lose bone much faster than others, and when new bone formation does not keep up with the loss of old bone, it will result in osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become fragile, so they break easily. It is called the silent disease because there are no signs or symptoms prior to a person breaking or fracturing bones. The effects of undiagnosed/untreated osteoporosis can be devastating, therefore the prevention and early detection of this disease are extremely important.
Osteoporosis is treatable and there are plenty of steps you can take to maintain healthy bones.
A large study of 36,590 patients who underwent bone mineral density scans in the West of Ireland between January 2000 and November 2018 found that many fractures could have been prevented if those at greatest risk of fracture had been identified beforehand by proven, safe, low-cost effective interventions.
Prof. John J. Carey, Consultant Physician in Medicine and Rheumatology, Galway University Hospital reports, “In Ireland, public hospital bed days have increased by almost 50% in the past decade for osteoporotic fractures and outnumber heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses that receive much greater attention,” he said.
“Preliminary estimates suggest the number of fragility fractures and deaths following fracture for Irish adults aged 50 years and older in 2020 was similar or greater to the numbers with Covid infection, but there is no daily report on the numbers tested, hospitalised or who die following a fracture.”
So who is at risk of getting osteoporosis?
Women are at the highest risk of developing osteoporosis, particularly those who have gone through menopause. However, men and children can also be affected. Furthermore, athletes who overtrain, those who develop eating disorders, or a combination of both can be at high risk to develop Osteoporosis when they are young and without help can end up not being able to compete due to the secondary effects of untreated Osteoporosis.
What do we do to help manage and prevent Osteoporosis?
Appropriate, regular and consistent weight-bearing exercise is recommended for the management and prevention of osteoporosis and osteopenia, as well as being good for your overall health and mental wellbeing. There are plenty of types of exercise that are beneficial for those with osteoporosis but improving strength, bone density and balance should be part of any exercise programme. In general, weight-bearing exercises are the best type to do. Strengthening or resistance exercises using bands, free weights or bodyweight are strongly recommended, and benefits of resistance training is well-documented in the literature.
Certain exercises can also help to improve your balance and coordination, which then help to reduce your risk of losing your balance, which can lead to broken bones.
Small changes in your daily choices can help, but not instead of weight-bearing or resistance exercise. Go for a light walk, choose the stairs as often as you can. Dancing provided you have good balance, and low-impact exercises are also options.
If possible, you should be assessed by a Chartered Physiotherapist before undertaking any exercise programme.
At GCP, we offer small group classes to ensure good supervision and appropriate progression. It is usually a good idea to have a one-to-one session with one of our Chartered Physiotherapists prior to the class so that they can do an assessment with regards to your ability, discuss any scan results, any medical conditions you have and any medications that you are taking. Click HERE to see what classes are available and might be appropriate for you, or Phone our excellent admin team for more information.