Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mass associated with older age. It is more likely to develop in women after the menopause. Affected bones have large holes and a thinner outer wall. They are fragile and more easily broken than normal bones. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks.
Eventually, as osteoporosis progresses, the bones in the spine collapse, the spine curves, and some people may develop a hunchback. This is scarcely noticeable in most cases, but can be disabling.
Building strong bones, especially before the age of 30, can be the best defence against developing osteoporosis, and a healthy lifestyle is important for keeping bones strong.
Four steps to strong bones
- Weight-bearing exercise
Weight training using barbells or dumbells and/or various equipment is a great benefit to the bones. Other weight bearing exercises such as walking and running are also good to build strong bones.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
Calcium from a pint of milk or 2 pots of yogurt plus a 2oz (50g) chunk of cheese a day. Vitamin D from oily fish, enriched cereals or from just being out in the sunshine
- Don't drink too much alcohol
Don't drink more than two glasses of wine a day if you are a woman, 1 ½ pints of beer for a man.
- Don't smoke!
Smoking damages bones
The severity of osteoporosis worsens with time, but the progression can be delayed and possibly reversed by good self care and by treatment with HRT, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin D supplements, calcitonin, bisphosphonates and SERMS.
Many fractures arising from osteoporosis heal with treatment, and a full recovery can be expected. However, some do not heal so well, and pain and difficulty using the part of the body involved occurs. This can lead to considerable disability, and elderly people in particular may become unable to look after themselves.
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