Getting down to the bare bones of osteoporosis
24 January 2013
There are not many health conditions where fat is beautiful – but a little extra weight can be a definite bonus in guarding against the bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis.
Delegates to a symposium on 'fighting falls and fragility
fractures' at Southend University Hospital heard how a slender
build and low body weight are risk factors for the debilitating
condition which affects nearly three million people in the UK.
- Family history of broken hip
- Long-term steroid use
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Disorders of the endocrine system, eg overactive thyroid
- Poor absorption of nutrients
- History of anorexia nervosa
- Cigarette smoking
- Excess alcohol consumption
The hospital event brought together hospital doctors and nurses,
GPs and other healthcare workers such as physiotherapists and
occupational therapists and featured a.range of speakers including
Janet Husk from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), Fiona
Rochford from the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) and Southend
University Hospital doctors Dr John Whitear, specialist in elderly
care, Professor Bhaskar Dasgupta, consultant rheumatologist and
clinical lead for osteoporosis.
Prof Dasgupta highlighted the importance of investigating the
possibility of the disease in patients sustaining 'fragility
fractures' (breaking a bone in a fall of standing height or less)
to prevent them going on to a more serious fall.
He warned: "One third of patients with hip fractures die within
He also emphasised the importance of a good, calcium-rich diet
and weight-bearing exercise to improve bone density.
"We all need to work together to try to combat the disease. A
simple diagnosis of a fracture is not good enough. We need to say
specifically if it is a normal trauma fracture or a fragility
fracture, in which case we need to put the patient on appropriate
The hospital employs a dedicated fracture prevention clinical
nurse specialist, Pam Long, who helped to organise the event with
colleagues Kate Chapman, falls practitioner, and Victoria Mitchell,
Pam said: "I liaise with most patients who come in with
fragility fractures and assess their risk of going on to break more
bones. Some weeks I may get up to 50 referrals of patients who need
special help. It is really important that they are identified as
these breaks can be very painful and debilitating. They also cost
the NHS a lot of money in treatment and bed days and we need to do
all we can to prevent them.
"It is an area which has been somewhat neglected in the past, so
we are determined to raise awareness."
With pic: Left to right Vicky Mitchell, falls nurse; Janet Husk,
RCP; Fiona Rochford, NOS; Dr John Whitear, associate specialist in
elderly care; falls practitioner Kate Chapman and Pam Long,
fracture prevention nurse specialist.