WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?
Our bone mineral density can be compared to what would be considered “ideal” ie: the average bone mineral density of 20 year olds of the same gender and ethnicity. Our bone density is measured via a DEXA scan* and, if it falls below 2.5 standard deviations below the mean (average) for the 20 year olds, then we are diagnosed as having osteoporosis. Having reduced bone strength makes a person more susceptible to suffering a fracture from forces that usually would not cause a bone to break eg: falling over.
* DEXA scans are performed by radiology (x-ray / CT / MRI) clinics. You need a referral from your GP to get a scan, which may be able to be bulk billed in certain circumstances. We do not perform DEXA scans at Carina Central.
WHY WOULD I DEVELOP OSTEOPOROSIS?
Our bone health and strength is determined by lifestyle choices made throughout our life, particularly in the first few decades. For the development of strong bones, regular high impact exercise and adequate dietary calcium intake is required. Factors that can reduce bone strength are menopause, insufficient exercise, vitamin D or calcium intake, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and prolonged corticosteroid use.
HOW DO I IMPROVE MY BONE DENSITY?
Regular exercise (3-7 x week), 3-5 servings of calcium a day, adequate UVB exposure for the synthesis of vitamin D and the cessation of risk factors such as smoking and increased alcohol consumption. Our calcium needs are best met through an appropriate diet although calcium supplements may be required for some individuals. The type of exercise required to achieve your goals will differ depending on your age and bone strength, it is not a “one size fits all” approach. An individualised exercise programme can be established through consultation with a health practitioner who has a special interest in osteoporosis such as a Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist. Medications that assist in the improvement of bone strength are available for those with poor bone density. These “bone building” medications and calcium supplements may have adverse health effects in some individuals and must only be taken after consultation with your general practitioner.
For those who would like more information on the topic, a detailed paper is available on the definitions of osteoporosis and osteopenia, as well as specifics for exercise, calcium requirements and UVB exposure.