Call goes out for older women to safeguard bone health

Irish Osteoporosis Society data show almost 70% of hip fractures happening in women

On World Osteoporosis Day, which is Wednesday, the Irish Osteoporosis Society is urging women over 65 to protect their bone health. Pictured are society ambassador TV presenter Mary Kennedy, Hilda Smith, Mary Dunne and Anne Marsh.

On World Osteoporosis Day, which is Wednesday, the Irish Osteoporosis Society is urging women over 65 to protect their bone health. Pictured are society ambassador TV presenter Mary Kennedy, Hilda Smith, Mary Dunne and Anne Marsh.

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Older women have been urged to protect their bone health with data showing almost 70 per cent of hip fractures occur in women.

A low level of awareness of the role played by osteoporosis in such injuries has also emerged, with a survey of GPs finding that a vast majority of women found to have the condition after suffering a fracture are surprised by the diagnosis.

More than half of women at an increased risk of a fracture through their bone fragility remain untreated for osteoporosis, thereby leaving them at increased risk, the research found.

The data was collected by the Irish Osteoporosis Society to mark World Osteoporosis Day. It points out that fractures in vulnerable people can occur from “something as simple as a sneeze or bending over to tie a shoelace”.

Health Service Executive figures show that almost 4,000 people were hospitalised for osteoporosis-related hip fractures in Ireland in 2019, of which 69 per cent were women.

With Ireland having the sixth highest rate of hip fragility fractures (breaks) globally, the society says the treatment gap for the disease is widening across the country.

Prof Moira O’Brien, founder of the society, described the rate of diagnosis as “shocking” given most fractures can be prevented and the disease treated.

“Early diagnosis of this silent disease is extremely important to help people, particularly women, avoid potentially life changing injuries,” she said.

Scans and resources

GPs need better access to DXA scans and other resources, which are often only available privately, she said.

“We know recovery from bone fractures can be very difficult, so we are asking people to become aware of their bone health and speak to their GP or contact.”

Risk factors for osteoporosis include being a woman over 65, having a history of osteoporosis in your family and having a history of broken bones. Other, controllable risk factors include being a smoker, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and having a low body weight.

Of the doctors surveyed by GP Buddy, 54 per cent said a lack of resources was negatively affecting the diagnosis of osteoporosis. Some 69 per cent of GPs said they offer advice to at-risk patients on how to avoid fractures while 100 per cent believed patient knowledge needed to be improved.

Meanwhile, in the UK, a new study by the Royal Osteoporosis Society has found that almost one-fifth of people with the disease have had to retire or cut back work hours while a quarter live with long-term pain.

The disease affects people in lower-income households more severely, leaving them more likely to live with long-term pain, to feel more socially isolated and to have their work affected, the study found.