Dr Sarah Jarvis

My Weekly’s favourite GP from TV and ra­dio writes for you

My Weekly - - Contents - DR SARAHJARVIS

With World Osteoporosis Day around the cor­ner on Oc­to­ber 20, it’s a good time to think about bones. 1 in 3 women over 50, and 1 in 5 men, will break a bone due to osteoporosis. For­tu­nately, lifestyle changes and, if nec­es­sary, med­i­ca­tion can help.

It’s never too early to take steps to avoid osteoporosis – and lit­er­ally tak­ing steps (plenty of them) is the best form of de­fence. Osteoporosis is some­times called “the silent epi­demic” – many peo­ple don’t know they have weak bones un­til they break one. Since osteoporosis gets more com­mon with age and we’re liv­ing longer, more of us are at risk each year.

Life ex­pectancy has gone up 13 years for men and al­most 10 years for women since 1970. An “av­er­age” woman of 65 to­day can ex­pect to live for an­other 21 years, and an av­er­age man for more than 18 years. New bone is con­stantly be­ing laid down and old bone tis­sue bro­ken down. Un­til your 40s, bone is formed faster than it’s taken away, so your bones get thicker. From then on the process is re­versed – and in women, bone loss speeds up af­ter menopause. Men also have stronger bones to start with. Ob­vi­ously if your bones are less strong you’re more likely to break one, but some bones are more at risk. A “fragility frac­ture” is a break when you’ve fallen from stand­ing height or lower, and your hip (tech­ni­cally the “neck” of your fe­mur, or thigh bone) and your wrist are top of the list. Up to half of peo­ple who break a hip can’t live in­de­pen­dently af­ter­wards.

IF YOU BREAK A BONE AF­TER A MI­NOR FALL, YOUR DOC­TOR SHOULD AL­WAYS AR­RANGE A BONE SCAN TO SEE IF YOU HAVE OSTEOPOROSIS

The bones of your spine are also prone to break­ing. This can lead to per­sis­tent pain, stoop­ing and some­times breath­ing prob­lems if your ribcage is squashed.

The first step is to know if you’re at risk. You’re more likely to break a bone if a par­ent or sib­ling had osteoporosis; if you’re very un­der­weight; if you went through menopause be­fore 45; if you’ve taken steroid tablets for any length of time; or if you have cer­tain med­i­cal prob­lems. See your GP if you think you might be at risk; they may sug­gest a bone scan.

Lifestyle is key. For in­stance smok­ing makes you more prone to bro­ken bones as well as lung can­cer – see your doc­tor for help to quit!

Drink­ing more than about 4 units of al­co­hol a day (2 “nor­mal” glasses of wine or 2 pints of beer) can make bones more brit­tle. Even more than 2 units a day in­creases your risk to an ex­tent.

Ex­er­cise goes a long way to pro­tect­ing your bones, but non-weight bear­ing kinds like swim­ming (and to an ex­tent cy­cling) don’t pro­duce the im­pact your bones need to re­build. How­ever they are great for your heart and gen­eral fit­ness, so don’t stop! In­stead add brisk walk­ing, run­ning, danc­ing or ex­er­cise classes. You can even ex­er­cise with osteoporosis – just avoid bungee jump­ing!

Ide­ally, com­bine this with strength and re­sis­tance train­ing. Arm curls with a can of beans; push­ing your­self up from an arm­chair us­ing your arms; and re­peat­edly go­ing onto tip­toe and down to flat feet (make sure you’re well bal­anced!) will work dif­fer­ent mus­cle groups. This im­proves bal­ance as well as strength, mak­ing you less prone to the falls that lead to breaks.

Cal­cium in your diet helps keep bones strong. Dairy prod­ucts, tinned fish with bones, for­ti­fied ce­re­als and bread, or veg like spinach are sources. Next week: Say good­bye to thrush for­ever…

TAKE A 10MICROGRAM SUP­PLE­MENT OF VI­TA­MIN D FROM OC­TO­BER-APRIL, AND ALL YEAR ROUND IF YOU’RE OVER 65 OR DON’T GET OUT­SIDE MUCH

ENOUGH CAL­CIUM IN YOU UR DIET HELPS KEE EP YOUR BONES STRONG’’

Ver­te­brae can be at risk from osteoporosis

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.