Osteoporosis affects between four and six million South Africans, with an estimated one in every three women and one in five men that will develop this disease in their lifetime, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa (NOFSA).
According to Teréza Hough, CEO NOFSA, the disease is known as the ‘silent epidemic’ as the patient usually does not experience any visible symptoms until they fracture a bone, which can of course be extremely painful and can even lead to death in some cases.
She explains that there is a serious misconception among most people that osteoporosis is a normal part of ageing. “Although age still remains a big risk factor for developing osteoporosis, it is not exclusive to the senior population and it can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition which includes:
- Getting exercise;
- Following a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D;
- Avoiding smoking and consuming too much alcohol;
- Maintaining a healthy body weight during childhood and adolescence; and
- Parents should also ensure that their children get enough calcium, protein and vitamins from a young age.
“Bone-healthy nutrition, paired with weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises are important and effective methods that can assist in preventing osteoporosis and reducing one’s risk of falls and fractures in general. Despite effective advances in diagnosis, assessment and interventions to reduce fracture risk, a minority of men and women actually receive appropriate treatment,” says Hough.
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