Bones are a serious matter

This article is sponsored by Osteoporosis Australia.

WHEN it comes to your health it’s common to wait until the very last moment to act.

We can often delay going to the doctor especially for early signs of a more serious disease.

As the world’s population lives longer the significance of osteoporosis and fractures increases.

Obviously bones don't deteriorate overnight but did you know your bone density begins to gradually decrease from age 30?

So taking preventative measures throughout your lifetime is vital in building and maintaining strong bones that will be the key to your independence in your later years.  

To paint a picture of how prolific this disease really is, take a look at the statistics released on the 27 June in the ‘Osteoporosis Australia report: Failure to prevent fractures costing all states and territories’.

The brittle bones of Australians aged 50 years+ is expected to cost a whopping $3.1 billion this year alone.

Osteoporosis Australia CEO, Greg Lyubomirsky said action is needed to improve the health outcomes for patients and their families.

“The report clearly indicates the rising cost of osteoporosis and related fractures and the majority of this cost is actually due to fractures, which is a consequence of osteoporosis,” Mr Lyubomirsky said.

By 2022 the 10-year cost of broken bones will climb to an estimated $21.9 billion.

“We need to remember that this cost is not just impacting our healthcare system it’s also significantly impacting patients and their families.

“It disrupts normal life and patients often cannot perform activities like working, driving, or shopping and consequently they become reliant. This reality means we have double impact within the community.

“One is cost and one is suffering for patients and families who actually suffer from fractures,” Mr Lyubomirsky said.

The release of the report coincides with the launch of the independent SOS Fracture Alliance - Australia’s first national alliance of 30 medical, allied health, patient and consumer organisations focusing on the prevention of osteoporotic fractures with a goal to ‘make the first break the last’.

The alliance seeks to prevent fractures from happening by increasing nation-wide recognition of the disease and help to close the gap in osteoporosis care.

Mr Lyubomirsky said there is a significant gap in patient care and the problem is with patients who have fractured a bone and are patched up but not investigated for osteoporosis.

Four-out-of-five Australians treated for an osteoporotic fracture are not tested for osteoporosis, and therefore, are not offered treatment for osteoporosis

“There are 160,000 osteoporotic fractures expected in Australia this year.

“However we know probably at least half will be discharged from hospital without any investigations or testing for osteoporosis, just an acute repair of the fracture, whether it’s surgery or a plaster,” Mr Lyubomirsky said.

“There is no investigation such as a bone density test, and in some cases no blood test to check vitamin D and calcium deficiencies so basically the patient is put back into the community without any knowledge of what’s happening with their bones.”

So why is this happening?

“It's like a building structure with cracks on the wall but we’re not looking at the foundation and that’s very important because if the foundation isn’t correct you’re at risk of having more fractures.

Normal bone matrix (left) vs osteoporosis

Normal bone matrix (left) vs osteoporosis

“This means the bones will fracture more often and patients will continue coming back to the hospital system and it’s costing everyone more,” Mr Lyubomirsky said.

The good news is there are proactive steps you can take for risk assessment that will only take a few minutes.

The ‘Know Your Bones’ online assessment tool is one proactive measure created by Osteoporosis Australia and The Garvan Institute of Medical Research that puts the power in the hands of the patient to help understand and self-assess their risk.

“The majority of patients do not understand the importance of bone health or that a broken bone or fracture can be due to a disease like osteoporosis.

“The majority of the population who have high blood pressure and cholesterol understand the consequences of it and that it may lead to heart attack or a stroke, however that’s not necessarily the link with broken bones and osteoporosis.  

“This is a very important message as it’s a real and immediate medical emergency but it’s also an ongoing medical issue because once a fracture occurs, it can occur again if the underlying cause is not attended to appropriately,” Mr Lyubomirsky said.

Bone health needs to be made a priority and it’s a collective responsibility of ours.

It’s time to be proactive by taking the necessary measures to help you maintain a healthy, independent lifestyle, free of pain and suffering caused by broken bones.

For recommendations on exercise, diet, preventative measures and treatment options visit the Osteoporosis Australia website.

This article is sponsored by Osteoporosis Australia.