The International Osteoporosis Foundation issued a recent report that estimates that more than 22 million women aged between 50-84 years in the European Union (EU) have osteoporosis.
Who is at risk?
Although men are being diagnosed with osteoporosis the majority of cases occur in women with postmenopausal women being at greatest risk of broken bones due to the hormonal changes that occur at menopause which result in rapid loss of bone mass.
Two-thirds of the estimated 3.5 million new fragility fractures that occurred in the EU in 2010 occurred in women. Approximately 22,000 deaths in women were causally related to fractures with 50% due to hip fractures, 28% to clinical spine fractures and 22% to other fractures,” highlighted Professor Juliet Compston, Chair of the European Union Osteoporosis Consultation Panel.
What is it?
Osteoporosis is a chronic disorder which causes bones to become weak and easily susceptible to fracture. For approximately one in three women in the EU, excessive bone loss together with other factors, leads to osteoporosis-related fragility fractures.
Hip and spine fractures are the two most serious fracture types, associated with substantial pain and suffering, disability, and premature death. The cost of fragility fractures to European healthcare systems is in excess of €37 billion each year. As a result of an aging population in the EU the number of men and women with osteoporosis is expected to increase by 23% from 2010 to 2025, when an estimated 33.9 million people will have it.
Due to longer average life expectancy and higher prevalence of osteoporosis, women suffer most in terms of lost quality of life. The IOF report warns that the societal burden of fragility fractures due to osteoporosis can only be reduced with timely prevention and treatment. Yet the report reveals that the gap between the numbers of women who are treated compared to the proportion of the population that could be considered eligible for treatment based on their fracture risk remains high.
What can you do?
In Europe and North America the average age of menopause is between 50 and 53 years. This is the stage in life when women should assess their personal risk factors for osteoporosis and ensure that they take preventive measures.
Regular weight-bearing exercise, sufficient vitamin D, and a calcium and protein rich diet are important for bone health at every age but these factors become absolutely critical after menopause.
What is rarely mentioned is the role of progesterone in bone building, instead women may be offered drugs which can have potential health problems such as Fosamax. Side effects can include digestive problems, oesophageal ulceration and also an increased risk of arterial fibrillation.
The other option usually offered is HRT which contains a synthetic progestin which does not have the same ability to regenerate bone that progesterone does. Both progesterone and oestrogen are necessary for treatment of osteoporosis but most women have sufficient oestrogen naturally produced at or after menopause without having to supplement. Oestrogen can help retain old bone for longer, but progesterone is needed for actual bone building and renewal.
If you are at risk for osteoporosis then taking preventive action to strengthen and renew bone in a natural way makes perfect sense.