Symptoms of Poor Bone Health

Bone health is important for healthy living. Our bones provide structure, support the freedom of movement, store important minerals and protect our internal organs from injury. Not surprisingly, poor bone health can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. It may affect their ability to move normally and perform everyday functions. It is estimated that 66% of men and women over the age of 50 have poor bone health.1

There are many kinds of bone problems leading to poor bone health including:

  • Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak, fragile and brittle, which increases the risk of fractures, or the complete or partial break of a bone. It occurs when bones lose minerals such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, causing a loss of bone density or mass.2
  • Osteopenia – Osteopenia is when bone density is lower than normal, but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis.3 It may mean that a person has a greater chance of developing osteoporosis if they continue to lose more bone in the future.

For those Australians with poor bone health, 22% have osteoporosis and 78% have osteopenia.1

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are largely ‘silent’ conditions as there are usually no specific signs or symptoms until a fracture occurs. When a fracture does happen, it can lead to pain and in the case of fractures of the spine, a loss of height and changes in posture such as the ‘dowager’s hump’.4

How to manage poor bone health

It is never too early or late to take care of your bones. If you have poor bone health there are measures you can take to halt bone loss and reduce your risk of falls and fractures. These include:

  • Ensuring sufficient calcium and vitamin D – Having enough calcium in your diet is an important way to preserve your bone density and vitamin D is equally as vital because it helps the body absorb and utilise calcium effectively. A vitamin D and calcium supplement may be required to make sure adequate levels are met.
  • Exercising regularly – Strength or resistance training can maintain or even improve bone density and help to develop and sustain muscle strength, mass and endurance. Activities that promote balance, improve posture and coordination such as tai chi, yoga and Pilates are also important as they can help prevent falls.4
  • Avoiding smoking and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake – Smoking, excess alcohol and caffeine intake can all affect bone density and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.4
  • Trip-proofing your home – A person with poor bone health can reduce their risk of falls and associated fractures by removing loose rugs, installing handrails in the bathroom and making sure rooms are well-lit.4
References
  1. Watts J, Osteoporosis costing all Australians – a new burden of disease analysis 2012-2022, 2013, Osteoporosis Australia
  2. Osteoporosis Australia, What is osteoporosis, February 2014, URL access: http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/what-it
  3. National Osteoporosis Foundation, Low bone density, URL access: www.nof.org/articles/9
  4. Better Health, Osteoporosis, July 2014, URL access: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Osteoporosis