Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones in which the quality and density of bone is reduced 1. This makes bones porous and fragile, greatly increasing the risk of a fracture.
The loss of bone occurs quietly and progressively. A bone mineral density (BMD) test, most commonly performed with low radiation using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), is used, along with medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests to assess for osteoporosis and fracture risk 2.
Sometimes the first sign of osteoporosis is a fractured bone. Spinal vertebrae, the hip, and wrist are the most commonly affected bones, causing pain, immobility and, in some cases, hospitalisation 3.
The profound impact osteoporosis can have on quality of life is what inspires UCB to seek solutions in science.    

Who gets osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis affects an estimated 200 million people worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one fifth of women aged 70, two fifths of women aged 80, and two-thirds of women aged 90 3.
Although the disease is sometimes associated with postmenopausal women, osteoporosis affects men too. In fact, one third of hip fractures worldwide occur in men 4. Over the course of their lifetimes, one in three women and one in five men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture 4.

Am I at risk?

Family history plays an important role in determining the risk of osteoporotic fracture 5. Women and men with osteoporosis in their family are more likely to develop the disease and have fractures arising from minor trauma.
In addition to family history, other risk factors include: physical inactivity, smoking, high alcohol intake, long-term use of corticosteroids or proton pump inhibiting medicines and low body weight 3.

Fast Facts

You are 50% more likely to break a bone if your parent had an osteoporotic fracture 6 You are twice as likely to fracture your hip if your mother or father broke theirs 6 Ensuring an adequate intake of calcium, a major building-block of bone, can help reduce the risk of fractures 7
Vitamin D aids calcium absorption from food in the intestine 7

Weight-bearing exercise is essential for building strong bones and muscles 8

Prevention: mind your bones

A healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis 7. Calcium and vitamin D help to promote bone health.  


Our bones undergo constant renewal. Some cells are responsible for making bone while others are tasked with breaking it down 10. Osteoporosis is essentially an imbalance in this system. Instead of maintaining strong and dense bones, the body breaks down bone more quickly than forming new bone to replace it. The consequence is a loss of bone density and a deterioration of the bone microarchitecture resulting in fragile bones at risk of fracture.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise, form part of good bone care but alone are not sufficient once osteoporosis has developed and patients are at risk for fracture. Hormones such as oestrogen and progestin can be used to prevent bone loss and fractures.

Common treatments for osteoporosis include oral or intravenous bisphosphonates and subcutaneous denosumab. Both of these therapies reduce the rate at which bones are broken down and reduce the bone loss and deterioration of the skeleton. If osteoporosis is severe, daily parathyroid hormone injections may be used because it can help form new bone.     
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