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Osteoporosis: Talking to your doctor

Article image for Osteoporosis: Talking to your doctor

Danielle Galvin | Presented by Amgen

Osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease” because you may not even know you have weak bones until you have a fracture.[1]

Dr Tony Bartone, GP and former president of the Australian Medical Association, says more Australians now than ever before are concerned about osteoporosis, and are asking more questions to their healthcare providers.

“It’s obviously something they are more aware of, with more discussion about the disease in the media,” he told 2GB.

Talk to your doctor about osteoporosis

Your GP is your first port of call. “If concerned, chat to your GP. Your GP will ask you some questions and if necessary, order follow up tests like a bone density scan,” he said.

Dr Bartone explained that doctors will take a detailed medical history, including any family history of the condition, as well as taking into account any existing medical conditions or risk of falls.[1]

The next step

If you are identified as being at risk, your doctor should refer you for a bone density scan (also called DEXA). [1]

The DEXA scan will help determine whether your bones are weak and at risk of fracture. It’s quick and painless. [1]

Medicare will cover bone density scans for a person who meets certain medical requirements, such as having osteoporosis risk factors, and anyone aged over 70 years. [1,2]

“Certainly, everyone over the age of 70 should be assessed even if they don’t have any risk factors,” Dr Bartone said. “But of course, certain medical conditions, medications, lifestyles (high alcohol intake) may also be a determining factor.”

“Broken bones with minimal trauma, losing height and back pain are all red flags, and potentially a sign they’ve had silent fractures in the spine.”

Risk factors and myths

Osteoporosis might be thought of as a disease of the elderly – but that’s incorrect. Dr Bartone said many also mistakenly believe it only affects older women. [1]

“It’s mainly in women, but having said that, 20 per cent of men make up the diagnosis of osteoporosis,” he explained. [3]

“And increasingly, more and more younger women are affected, especially as early age onset of menopause is one of the possible associated factors that might predispose osteoporosis.” [2]

A sedentary lifestyle, not getting enough sun exposure for Vitamin D, excessive alcohol intake, an unhealthy diet, and family history, are all possible risk factors. [1]

“Exercise is the other key one,” Dr Bartone said. “Of course, if we are sedentary, we are in trouble.

We need regular exercise – think skipping, running and weights. Walking is good, but it has to be pretty brisk and pretty intense to make up the lack of bone impact.”

Osteoporosis is serious but it’s treatable. [1]

If you are over 50 and have had a fracture, or over the age of 70, a bone health check needs to be part of your regular health maintenance. Ask your doctor about a DEXA bone density scan.

Don’t ignore the symptoms. Talk to your doctor today.

Take control of your bone health and reduce your risk of fractures which can cause pain, loss of independence, loss of confidence and isolation. [1,4,5]

For further information talk to your doctor.

Disease education message by Amgen Australia. Amgen Australia, Level 7, 123 Epping Road, North Ryde, NSW 2113. ABN 31 051 057 428. Phone: 1800 646 998 AU-14947. Approved March 2021.
References: 1. Osteoporosis Australia. What you need to know about osteoporosis. Consumer guide. [Accessed 6 March 2020]; 2. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Osteoporosis prevention, diagnosis and management in postmenopausal women and men over 50 years of age. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2017; 3. Watts JJ, et al. Osteoporosis costing all Australians – A new burden of disease analysis 2012 to 2022. Osteoporosis Australia, 2013; 4. Cooper C. Am J Med 1997;103:12S-17S; 5. Svensson HK, et al. Osteoporos Int 2016;27:1729-