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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

Promoting proper bone health

October is a health-conscious month. Besides Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there's also World Cerebral Palsy Day (Oct 6), World Mental Health Day (Oct 10), World Arthritis Day (Oct 12) and other observances.

Last Tuesday and Thursday were World Menopause Day and World Osteoporosis Day (WOD), with both being linked as menopause accelerates bone loss and increases the risk of osteoporosis.

Driven by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), this year's campaign, "Step Up For Bone Health", aims to raise awareness and drive action for a fracture-free future.

When bones become fragile, they are likely to crack. This develops over several years, without any warning, until a fall or sudden impact causes a fracture, which can be life-changing as it affects mobility, independence and quality of life.

A silent disease, osteoporosis is vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated. Like other health issues, early intervention is crucial to prevent fractures of the wrist, hip, spine and other bones in the body.

Last December, my 84-year-old mother had a bone density test and the doctor prescribed a drug for osteoporosis, however, it was already too late as a few days later, she tripped in the living room. As a result, she had to undergo total hip replacement with a prosthesis and was hospitalised for 18 days. Despite the surgery, she is still unable to walk independently and we have to be careful about her having another fracture.

By coincidence, her older sister also suffered a hip fracture in the same month, but she was treated nonsurgically.

According to the IOF, one in three women and one in five men aged 50 years and over will suffer an osteoporotic fracture caused by a minor fall, a bump, a sneeze or a sudden movement.

Fractures have a devastating impact on millions of people worldwide.

Patients who share their stories on the WOD website include Olga Chon aged 97 from Mexico.

She was prescribed osteoporosis medication but stopped taking it as she did not see its benefits. In December 2018, a minor fall in her home led to a hip fracture and a hip replacement operation. Osteoporosis treatment then became even more crucial to help her avoid another fracture.

Leonidas Redolfi shares his difficult journey in pursuing the correct diagnosis and treatment too. He was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis and multiple vertebral fractures and recovered after two years of treatment. Now at 85, the Argentinian has returned to living life to the fullest, thanks to the right treatment, family support and taking charge of his own health by following the doctor's instructions.

Youngsters can also have brittle bones. Anton Bezlyudny, now 20, recalls his first fracture in the shinbone at age 10. It happened after he jumped down four steps on the school staircase. The Russian later broke his foot kicking a snowball, followed by two more fractures in the same year.

A diet lacking calcium-rich food and vitamin D, needed for calcium absorption, led to this series of fractures. Bezlyudny encourages taking care of bones from childhood through proper diet, spending time outdoors and engaging in physical activities.

The "Step Up For Bone Health" campaign highlights five steps to a fracture-free future.

First, physical activities keep bones and muscles moving, with weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening and balance-training exercises particularly recommended for promoting bone health.

Nutrition-wise, ensure a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and protein. Also, get a dose of vitamin D from safe sun exposure.

Lifestyle modifications are also recommended and include avoiding negative habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake.

The fourth and fifth steps are to consider whether you have risk factors, and then get tested and treated.

Not only in October, WOD is a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal diseases.

More information and resources for this year's campaign are available on the WOD and IOF websites.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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