What is Osteoporosis

The bones in our skeleton are made of a thick outer shell and a strong inner honeycomb mesh of tiny struts of bone. Osteoporosis means some of these struts become thin, which makes the bone more fragile and prone to break after a minor bump or fall. These broken bones are often referred to as fragility fractures. Although fractures can occur in different parts of the body, the wrist, hip and spine are most commonly affected. 

Your Bones 
Bones stop growing in length between the ages of 16 and 18, but bone density continues to increase slowly until a person is in their mid 20s. At this point the balance between bone demolition and bone construction stays stable. After the age of 35, bone loss increases very gradually as part of the natural ageing process. This bone loss becomes more rapid in women for several years following the menopause and can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of broken bones, especially in later life.
 
Consequences of osteoporosis
Having osteoporosis does not automatically mean that your bones will break, it just means that you have a ‘greater risk of fracture’. Thin, fragile bones in themselves are not painful but the broken bones that can result, can cause pain and other problems. Osteoporosis does not generally slow or stop the healing process. Bones that break because of osteoporosis will still heal in the same way as they do in people who do not have osteoporosis, which is usually about six to eight weeks. 
 
Wrist fractures
Broken wrists can be the first indication that you have osteoporosis. They often occur in middle aged women who have put out their arm to break a fall. Healthy bones should be able to withstand a fall from standing height so a bone that breaks in these circumstances is known as a fragility fracture.
Can fragility fractures be prevented?
The older we get, the greater our risk of breaking a bone. Osteoporosis becomes more common as the density of bone decreases and bones become generally less strong and more fragile. Falling is also much more common because of poor balance and co-ordination leading to a higher risk of breaking a hip. Lifestyle changes and keeping active can help to prevent falling. Drug treatments, to strengthen bones, are available for those at highest risk of fracture.

 

Stay Active

The most important message is – stay active! Often the fear of falling discourages women from going out, particularly on their own. This is the worst thing you can do. You need to increase your level of exercise, whether that is in classes such as yoga or Tai Chi, or simply going out walking.  Depending on your level of fitness you can find an organised walking group to suit you. Try Ramblers Association http://www.ramblers.org.uk/ or http://www.ageuk.org.uk/. Alternatively, why not organise a group of friends to meet for a walk? You could start by doing circuits of your nearest park to build strength and stamina.
 
Equipment for walking
Make sure you are wearing well-designed shoes with good grips. If you are doing a short walk in the park in good weather then trainers are fine. If you are walking further and particularly in the countryside, then well-designed walking boots are essential. Modern technology has massively improved both the weight and comfort of walking boots, so it is worth investigating what is available if you have not bought a pair recently.
Another innovation is the widespread use of trekking poles. Even if you do not usually wear a stick you might want to have a look at these. Most self-respecting walkers would not be seen without them these days and they can be a major boost to confidence. Check out Switch Sticks http://www.switchsticks.co.uk/store.asp/c=10. Mention Giddins Guard when you order and you will receive a 10% discount.
 
Make sure you are wearing Giddins Guard gloves. You will be more comfortable with warm hands and you will be protected in case you fall. Most of all, if you are wearing them you can stride out with confidence!
 
If you are going for more than a short walk, take a small day pack with waterproofs, water and a mobile phone. Keep your bag by the front door so that you are always ready for a walk. Top up your water bottle and away you go!