Occupational Health Service: osteoporosis awareness

27 June 2012

The Occupational Health Service is raising awareness about osteoporosis throughout July.

One in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 in the UK will break a bone, mainly because of this condition. Osteoporosis is a bone disorder characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of the bone structure. It is often known as “thinning of the bones”, where bones become fragile and break easily.

The condition is often referred to as a ‘silent condition’. Pain is not a symptom and commonly a break (fracture) of bones in the spine wrist or hips leads to further investigations and diagnosis.

Risk factors for Osteoporosis

  • Genes - Our bone health is largely dependent on the genes we inherit from our parents
  • Age - Bone loss increases in later life so by the age of 75 about half of the population will have osteoporosis
  • Gender - Women have smaller bones than men and also experience the menopause which results in depletion of the hormone oestrogen. This process can result in bone loss which in turn can have an effect on bone density
  • Low body weight – If you have a Body mass index below19 BMI calculator, you are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Alcohol – intake of more than 3 units daily interferes with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D and other bone nutrients.

Alcohol unit calculator

  • Previous fractures – If you have broken bones due to osteoporosis in the past, then you are more at risk of having fractures in the future
  • Smoking – Heavy smokers are at increased risk of not getting the right vitamins and nutrients from their diet.

Find out how to quit smokefree

Prevention

  • Healthy Eating - Eating oily fish and increasing the calcium intake of your diet can reduce the incidence of fractures. Foods with vitamin D are necessary for calcium absorption.
  • Exercising – staying active aids bone health and weight bearing exercises can help increase the strength of bones.
  • Sunlight - as vitamin D is mostly obtained from direct sunlight on the skin, short periods of exposure during the summer months is beneficial. However, take care if out in the sun for long periods by using good sunscreen protection and always avoid the midday sun to prevent burning. Sun Safety

Further information

Pick up a leaflet from UCL Occupational Health Service during July or email ohsadmin@ucl.ac.uk

National Osteoporosis Society

National Osteoporosis helpline 0845 450 0230

British Menopause Society The Osteoporosis and Bone Conference July 2012 brings an innovative and dynamic programme hosted by three leading osteoporosis and bone health organisations.

Elaine Fletcher, Occupational Health Adviser, Human Resource Division