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What is osteoporosis? 

Cornerstone of visible aging signs. Osteoporosis is a condition leading to thinning of bones so that they become weak and brittle.

Who gets it?

Osteoporosis is found mainly in middle-aged and elderly women, after the menopause (when the periods cease).

What are risk factors for osteoporosis?

Women at greatest risk are those who:

• are of Caucasian or Asian racial origin

• are thin and slight • smoke cigarettes

• drink a lot of alcohol

• drink a lot of coffee

• get little exercise

• have little calcium in their diet

• lack hormones due to the menopause

• take cortisone tablets

How do you know if you get osteoporosis?

Most women do not know, because thinning of the bones occurs unobtrusively. It is often first noticed when a bone breaks, usually the hip, wrist or vertebrae of the spine. X-rays may give some idea but they are limited because osteoporosis is not detectable until up to 50% of bone is lost. The best test which is done on the spine and neck of the femur bone is the DEXA bone densitometry scan.

What can you do about it?

Take regular weight-bearing exercise such as walking (e.g. brisk walking for 30 minutes 4 times a week).

• Stop smoking.

• Cut down on alcohol and caffeine.

• Have adequate calcium in your diet: 1000-1500 mg per day (1500 mg if postmenopausal). Eat calcium-rich foods such as low-fat calcium-enriched milk (500 mL contains 1000 mg), other low-fat dairy products (e.g. yoghurt or cheese), fish (including tinned fish such as salmon, with the bone), citrus fruits, sesame and sunflower seeds, almonds, brazil nuts and hazelnuts.

What are drug treatments? 

The best treatment is probably preventive hormone replacement therapy with the onset of the menopause. There are now many drugs available to treat established osteoporosis.