'Fracture' is probably one of the words we most frequently associate with osteoporosis and elderly women.
In this article, we explain what osteoporosis is, who is at risk and why. We talk about ways of preventing the condition and helpful daily living aids to retain your mobility and reduce falls at home.
Osteoporosis is a disease that sneaks into your bones without you noticing it. You may look and feel fine, until the condition has evolved.
While it is true that most older women easily break their bones, it occurs to men and younger women as well.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a common disease affecting an estimated 200 million people worldwide, of which 1 million in Australia. About 66% of the Australian population over 50, has poor bone health. More than 165,000 fractures each year due to the disease have a debilitating impact on patients and their family.
Osteoporosis is a condition that appears when your bones lose their density, eventually becoming so fragile and brittle, they break with just a little pressure, even from a bend or cough. The bone is a living tissue. Bone density is the amount of bone tissue that your body makes and replaces.
It is usually diagnosed in the later stage of your life, but the most important time to focus on building healthy bones is during the first 35 years of your life. Women lose about 20% of their bone density in the years following their menopause.
Osteoporosis affects men and women, however, women – especially older women who are past menopause – are at the greatest risk. One out of 4 cases, it occurs in men.
The symptoms of Osteoporosis include:
- A bone that breaks easier than expected
- A stooped posture
- Loss of height over time
- Back pain
What is the difference between Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis?
You should not confuse the disease with another known as Osteoarthritis. Both conditions are common skeletal disorders related to aging, however, while osteoporosis occurs due to fragile bones, osteoarthritis appears due to wearing down of the protective cartilage that cushions the end of the bones.
Who is at risk of Osteoporosis?
Women over the age of 50 are most likely to develop osteoporosis, although it occurs in men, but it is less common. The condition is 4 times more likely to occur in women than men. This higher risk is due to the fact that women have lighter and thinner bones, in combination with their longer life span than men.
What are the risk factors?
Fractures due to osteoporosis have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. They can result in chronic pain, long-term disability and even sometimes death. It is important to know which risk factors increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. These risk factors are:
Weight: if you are someone with a petite or small body frame, it can increase the chance of Osteoporosis; on the other end of the spectrum, excess body weight also increases the risk of fractures. Try to maintain a normal and healthy weight!
Previous breaks: If you have a history of fractures, even if only once, you are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Smoking: smoking has detrimental effects on your bones as smoking slows down the new-bone building capacity of the body.
Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is vital for our bones as it protects the bones and helps the body absorb calcium. Make sure to get out in the sun. If you are not getting sufficient vitamin D from the sun, ask your GP or pharmacist for a Vitamin D supplement.
Family history: Osteoporosis can also be the result of your genes. If you have a family history of brittle bones, you might inherit it too.
How can Osteoporosis affect your daily life?
Fractures due to osteoporosis have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. They can result in chronic pain, long-term disability and even sometimes death. The most occurring fractures are: hip, vertebrae, and wrist.
This can lead to:
- Reduced mobility
- Increase dependence
- Costs during hospital admission
- Medical costs, extra nursing care
- Loss of work/income
How can you prevent and manage Osteoporosis?
Your bone health is not a medical concern only. It requires attention and changes to your lifestyle. You can prevent and control osteoporosis by managing the risk factors. F.i. eliminate smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Those two are behaviours that can impact your bone health negatively.
Maintain a healthy weight: it is important to have a well-balanced diet made up of nutritious and healthy food.
Increase your calcium intake: try to get the recommended daily intake of calcium (120 gr a day), ideally from food: milk/yoghurt/cheese, green vegetables, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, dried fruit, rhubarb and nuts.
Vitamin D: make sure to get the adequate daily intake of vitamin D. There are a few good sources of vitamin D: salmon, liver, eggs, mushrooms or canned tuna. Sunlight is another reliable source of Vitamin D. Take advantage of Vitamin D as it helps to absorb calcium!
Engage in physical exercises: low impact activities such as swimming or aquatic exercise, walking, cycling, strength training, yoga or Pilates will help you strengthen the muscles and improve balance. Bones become stronger with physical activity. Get a pedal exerciser or dumbbells at home and start your journey to healthier bones.
Which daily living aids can you benefit from to manage Osteoporosis?
To support osteoporosis sufferers to live each day to the fullest, Bettercaremarket has a number of assistive devices and daily living aids available. These tools are designed to help older people affected by osteoporosis to continue to lead a safe and independent life in their own home. They are very convenient for a wide variety of living situations. They can assist you in staying mobile, remaining independent or help you when rehabilitating from a fracture.
FALL PREVENTION & PROTECTION
Mobility aids or walking aids are devices that can safely help you moving around indoors and outdoors.
Folding canes: a walking stick is a very suitable and versatile mobility aid. Our extendable, aluminium walking stick with foldable sections and several height adjustment settings will help those unsteady on their feet.
This walking aid helps stabilizing your body while you walk as well as providing you with extra support when walking on slippery ground.
Quad canes: Our Comfort-Plus Quad Cane by Airgo is a 4-point base walking stick that gives you greater stability while standing and walking. It helps to reduce slippage thanks to the sturdy base with rubber tips while it enables you to move independently and safely.
Mini Quad canes: is the perfect walking aid as they combine the stability of a quad cane and the size of a walking cane. It is also offered by Airgo.
Rollators: or wheeled walkers, are frames with wheels that has the unique property of providing balance. They assist with walking and offer the osteoporosis patients a space to sit down and rest. Not only does it prevent falls but also it increases their well-being and self-independence. Our Rollator 105 by Days is lightweight and easily manoeuvrable. It is available in 4 stylish colours. This device will turn immobility into mobility.
Hip protector: It is used to prevent hip fractures in patients with osteoporosis. The idea is to act as a shock absorber around the hips to protect the hip bones from the impact of a fall.
Mobility scooter: if you have trouble walking outside for a longer period of time, this mobility aid can provide a lifeline. A mobility scooter is safe and easy to use and is very convenient to get you to the shops, pick up your medication at the pharmacist or visit your family and friends. Our Venom Mobility Scooter combines style, convenience, reliability and affordability.
We can also help you with daily living aids specific for a part of the house
Multifunctional Shower Chair: also known, as a Multifunctional Over Toilet Frame, is a mobility aid that can assist osteoporosis users with toilet, shower, bath, and bedside care. It is a very useful piece of equipment with 6 functions in 1: a walker, commode chair, shower chair, bath bench, toilet seat raiser and toilet surround frame.
Raised toilet seat: is a convenient attachment to your existing toilet to add some extra height. Our Raiset toilet seat has 2 armrests to offer you even more support when sitting down and standing up from the toilet.
Bath transfer board: is a very effective assistive tool to help users with getting in and out of bath safely. Our transfer board can be adapted to the width of most standard sized baths.
Grab rail: a handrail can make a major difference to someone to get about his or her bathroom. This device has been proven to be invaluable in the bathroom. Our portable grab bar by Bridge Medical can be fitted without tools in the shower or next to your toilet.
Overbed table: our overbed table with wheels by Days is very practical for eating, reading, working and many other activities while lying in bed.
Food workstation: is a durable kitchen workstation by Homecraft that will assist you with all the kitchen tasks: cutting, slicing, grating. It also features a removable clamp to hold food, a tin or a bowl.
Kettle tipper: if you can no longer tip or tilt a regular kettle, this kitchen aid will come in handy. The tipper secures the base of the kettle and helps to pour hot water into your cup safely and effortlessly.
Crystal Tap turner: is a great device to make turning taps on and off easy.
PainGone Plus pen: is a natural pain relief device that helps with fast and effective pain-relief. You can use the drug-free pen almost everywhere on the body: shoulder, neck, knee, feet, arm or leg.
Reacher: a reaching aid will help someone who is unsteady on his or her feet to reach for an object safely, without overbalancing or stretching.
Where can I find out more about Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis Australia offers information, advice, research and support on a lot of aspects of osteoporosis: treatment, prevention, living with osteoporosis, diet and exercises. Through ‘Know your bones’ you can self-assess your bone health. In less than 10 minutes it can tell you if you are at risk of Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a global disease, that affects our bones. While getting older, we lose bone density making our bones frail and brittle, even to a point they easily brake. The bone condition is debilitating but can improve with the right treatment and lifestyles choices.
Whether you have osteoporosis yourself or know someone who has it, you should know the causes and risk factors of this silent disease. Choosing the right daily living aids that can assist you with your mobility can go a long way.
Don’t let osteoporosis rule your life, instead, take control, with assistive tools to live your life the way you would like it!