Are you at risk of a fracture?

Did you know that about 50 per cent of Australian women have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime?

While osteoporosis, and therefore the risk of fracture, is more common in women, men are also at risk, with 25 per cent experiencing an osteoporosis-related fracture.

Osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’, where the bones become brittle as a result of the loss of calcium. Some people don’t even realise they have osteoporosis until they have a fracture or notice a marked change in their posture. Back pain, caused by changes in the spine, could be the first sign of bone fragility. 

Many factors contribute to the risk of an osteoporotic fracture, such as:

  • your age

  • gender

  • genes

  • low body weight (BMI below 19, as finer bones and less body fat aren’t protective in a fall)

  • poor diet

  • high risk of falls

  • lack of weight-bearing exercise

  • certain medicines

  • smoking

  • excessive alcohol consumption.

Osteoporosis is usually diagnosed with a DEXA scan, which measures bone density. However, bone density is not a perfect indicator of fracture risk. Other risk factors, such as those mentioned above, also need to be considered. Although, having only one major risk factor doesn’t reliably predict overall fracture risk either.

Calculating your overall osteoporotic fracture risk can help you with early diagnosis so you can receive necessary treatment and make lifestyle changes to help strengthen your bones, protecting you from potential future fractures. And there are a couple of online tools that can help you work out your risk. 

One of these online assessment tools, the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX), can calculate your 10-year probability of a fracture in the spine, hip, shoulder or wrist, if you are aged between 40 and 90 years. While the Garvan Institute fracture risk calculator estimates the five- and 10-year fracture risk for any osteoporotic fracture from ages between 50 and 96.

So, why not try these tools for yourself? But please don’t fret about your results; they are only a guide and serve as a prompt to talk to your doctor about your bone health and fracture risk. 

Find out more at NPS MedicineWise.

Written by leshka

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