Osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become weak and fragile, is a silent disease that at the best of times often remains undiagnosed and untreated. Now, many experts are concerned that the global pandemic has had a negative impact on bone health and osteoporosis prevention and treatment. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many older adults, those most susceptible to osteoporosis, have lived an increasingly indoor, sedentary lifestyle. This means that they may have not been getting enough exercise, or vitamin D - which together with calcium and other healthy nutrients, is needed for good bone health.
Cyrus Cooper, Professor of Musculoskeletal Science at NDORMS and IOF President states: "Now is the time to make bone health and osteoporosis prevention a health care priority. Broken bones due to osteoporosis affect one in three women and one in five men aged 50 years and over worldwide. Osteoporotic fractures are a major cause of pain, disability, and loss of independence in older adults. Hip and spinal fractures are among the most debilitating and life-threatening, especially for older adults."
"With attention to bone health, and early diagnosis and appropriate treatment for those at risk, such life-changing injuries can be prevented."
Five ways to take direct action for bone health:
- Keep exercising: during the pandemic, people have been more sedentary, especially if confined to their homes for extended periods of time. Regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises help maintain bone and muscle mass, keeping you stronger, mobile, and less likely to fall and fracture.
- Get enough vitamin D and follow a bone-healthy, calcium-rich diet: together with calcium, protein, and other nutrients, vitamin D supports bone and muscle health. If you've been staying indoors with little exposure to sunlight, you may be vitamin D deficient. Ask your doctor whether supplementation may be required.
- Ask for a bone health assessment if you have osteoporosis risk factors: during the pandemic, fewer risk assessments have been carried out and many who should be tested have not been able to access a bone density scan. Start by alerting yourself to key risk factors by taking the IOF Osteoporosis Risk Check. If at risk, reach out to your doctor and insist on a fracture risk assessment or a DXA scan should it be recommended.
- Take prescribed osteoporosis treatments: anyone who has been prescribed treatment should ensure they continue their medication as prescribed. Be aware that some treatments should not be delayed and be sure to contact your doctor for prescription refills or to organise injections if needed.
- Make falls prevention a priority: ask for help to ensure a safe home environment. Among other fall safety measures, remove tripping hazards, and install handrails in the bath and good lighting along stairways. Wear shoes with slip-proof soles.
Professor Cooper warns: "It is critically important that anyone aged over 50 who has broken a bone after a minor fall request testing and management of osteoporosis. Timely post-fracture care, when possible through a fracture liaison service in your local hospital, is the key to preventing further potentially debilitating fractures in the future.
NDORMS collaborates with the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), in support of its Capture the Fracture programme. Together with Amgen, and UCB, the goal is to reduce hip and vertebral fractures by 25% by 2025.