Osteoporosis (OP) is when the strength of your bones is lower than it should be. This is because as we get older the amount of bone we can form is lower than the amount of bone we lose and therefore our bones can become thinner and small holes. Now some of this is just a normal part of the aging process. We calculate the strength of your bones by finding out your bone mineral density, or BMD. What doctors do is they take your BMD and create something called a T-score. A T-score is a comparison of your bones compared to a healthy 30-year old man or woman. Obviously the bones of someone who is 30 will be less than 80 – but what matters is by how much! If your T score is below a certain level you will be diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Osteopenia is a person who is at risk for developing OP.
Our risk of being diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia goes up as we get older. Other risks for OP are
• Sex – it’s more common in women
• If you have had a previous fracture in your back (spine)
• A parent that broke a hip
• If you were on medications called glucocorticoids for more than 3 months (a common one is prednisone)
• After you turned 40 you had a broken bone from something relatively low impact (called a fragility fracture).
The reason why OP becomes so concerning as we get older is because it makes us more prone to broken bones. This is extremely important when we look at the stats such as
80% of broken bones over the age of 50 are because of osteoporosis
1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will have a broken bone in their lifetime because of OP – crazy!
Not only is it a real drag to break a bone, the consequences of being in hospital, wearing a cast, and being unable to move for a time is astronomical. This can lead to weakness, fatigue, hospitalizations for something else (like if you get an infection when you went to emergency because you fell), or having to go into a long-term care facility because you aren’t strong enough to manage with the cast/pain of the break.
The most common parts of your body that will break because of OP are
Do you think this might be you or you just aren’t sure? It is recommended that women after 50 or men after 65 (unless they have had prostate cancer then it’s earlier) get a BMD test done to see their risks. This is an important step for managing OP and getting on the right medication/ exercise/ physiotherapy programs to help you manage (but more of that to come!).
Where can you go to learn more?
Osteoporosis Canada has an incredible website that has tons of resources for you to learn more about OP. You can check it out here!