The older I get the more passionate I have become about maintaining the best possible health. I have also tried to increase community understanding of the importance of health and well-being through the work I’ve done with some of our leading charities whose focus is on health conditions such as dementia and arthritis. More recently I have been busy raising awareness of the need for good bone health.
I believe that we should give back if we can and my work in these important health areas is something I value greatly. In my current role as Ambassador for The Big O, I am on a crusade to address the silence around the most silent of diseases, osteoporosis.
In its early stages, the first indication of osteoporosis can be a broken bone. However, until a person breaks a bone or suffers a fracture, they can be completely unaware that anything is amiss. That’s why the condition is referred to as “the silent disease”.
Osteoporosis is more prevalent than most people realise. For instance, it is more common than breast or cervical cancer combined with over 1.39 million Australians with osteoporosis. Two in three Australians over 50 have poor bone health. However, bone health is not high on the list for most people, many of whom may take it for granted.
Osteoporosis causes bones to become thin, weak and fragile. A minor bump or fall from a standing height can cause a broken bone that often causes a person to experience a loss of mobility and independence. Their quality of life can be affected for at least 18 months after such a fracture.
It’s mainly women who are most at risk and increasingly, more and more younger women, especially those with an early age onset of menopause. If you are over 50 and have had a fracture, or have a family history of fractures, or suffer from unexplained back pain, you could have osteoporosis. By the way, men are not immune from osteoporosis – they account for over 25 per cent of all fractures related to poor bone health.
Anyone over 70 who hasn’t had a bone density scan in two years should ask their GP for a referral and book one to make sure they have nothing to worry about. I had my first bone density scan when I was in my 50’s and now have a regular scan every two years.
There’s no doubt osteoporosis isn’t always top of mind or considered a pressing health concern. Many women are guilty of this kind of thinking. They often consider the needs of others ahead of their own and put off having essential health checks and screenings. The Big O campaign is an important reminder that osteoporosis can be a debilitating disease and women need to make their bone health a priority.
Most women accept the need to have regular mammograms and pap smears, and as part of The Big O campaign, I’d like to encourage all women to include a bone health check as part of their regular health maintenance. Don’t think that because you follow a healthy diet and exercise that your bones are in good shape. That may not be the case. Don’t risk your future or your independence, get a bone density scan.
A bone density scan (sometimes called a DEXA) is the only way osteoporosis can be diagnosed, unless you have a fracture. It’s a painless procedure that takes only 10-15 minutes and usually you don’t have to get undressed. The good news is that Medicare covers bone density scans for anyone who has risk factors or is over 70.
As there is no cure for osteoporosis, fracture prevention is vital. Getting an early diagnosis ensures the disease can be managed appropriately by your doctor and the life you enjoy living is not compromised. Remember a bone density scan can provide an early diagnosis and treatment can reduce your risk of a fracture.
The Big O campaign is designed to raise awareness but also to reassure people they are not alone and that help and support are available.
Osteoporosis is serious but it is treatable. As we approach World Osteoporosis Day on 20 October, I encourage everyone to make a commitment to maintaining the best possible bone health…and to say “NO” to The Big O.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.
If you’ve fractured a bone since turning 50, have a family history of fractures and osteoporosis, lost height, or experienced unexplained back pain, you could have osteoporosis. It’s serious but it’s also treatable. Ask your doctor about a bone density scan today. And say no to The Big O.