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Learn how to stay healthy on World Osteoporosis Day

Morton & Partners is pleased to announce the addition of a new bone mineral densitometry unit to its practice at the Melomed Mitchells Plain hospital. This information comes just in time for World Osteoporosis Day, which is observed annually on October 20th.

World Osteoporosis Day raises awareness of this silent disease that comes as a surprise for many people because there are no warning signs until it is advanced and only picked up after a fracture or break of a bone.

It is a condition that causes bone thinning and is frequently overlooked by people, especially as they start to age. Our bones are in a constant state of change as the body replaces old bits of bone with new bone. As you get older, you are more likely to lose bone faster than it can be replaced, resulting in decreased bone mass.

The most accurate procedure to diagnose osteoporosis is to perform a bone mineral density (BMD) test using a machine called a bone mineral densitometry unit. A DEXA scan, also known as dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, will be performed by a radiographer.

If you are already on osteoporosis medication, it is recommended that you undergo a bone density test annually. Even if you do not have osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend that you get a bone density test every two years, especially for women from age 40.

Osteoporosis targets women more than men. As per the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately half of all women and a quarter of all men over the age of 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.

While women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk, osteoporosis can affect anyone. Osteoporosis is one of the most serious threats to our bones after we reach adulthood, with bone loss beginning as early as the age of 30 in women. New studies have also shown that the prevalence of osteoporosis in men is higher than previously thought.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa (NOFSA), one in every three women and one in every five men will develop osteoporosis during their lifetime, indicating that potentially between four and six million South Africans are affected by the disease.

The word osteoporosis itself means “porous bone”, which is exactly what happens to the bones in this disease. The density and quality of bones are reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton and increased risk of fracture, particularly of the spine, wrists, hip, pelvis, and upper arms. The condition is usually caused by a lack of calcium and subsequent low levels of bone-building cells, which leaves bones weakened and more susceptible to fractures.
The DEXA scan carried out by a bone mineral densitometry unit measures the spine, hip and total femoral neck. It is the most useful and reliable method for checking bone density.

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are several things you can do to help prevent this bone disease from developing or to help the body once osteoporosis has formed, including regular exercise and eating a calcium and vitamin D-rich diet.

What are some of the risk factors for osteoporosis?
When considering the risk factors for osteoporosis, the likelihood of getting the disease is increased by your lifestyle, pre-existing medical conditions, and/or certain medications. Your doctor will be able to complete a risk assessment with you to determine your level of risk for contracting osteoporosis, but key indicators of risk are:
• Lifestyle factors such as being older than 65 years, having broken a bone after the age of 50, a close relative having broken a bone or having osteoporosis, smoking, being underweight for a specific height, menopause before the age of 45, more than two drinks of alcohol several times a week.
• Medical conditions such as hyperparathyroidism, chronic lung disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic hepatic or renal disease, vitamin D deficiency, Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and/or rheumatoid arthritis.
• Medication such as oral glucocorticoids (steroids), cancer treatments (radiation, chemotherapy), thyroid medicine, antiepileptic medications, gonadal hormone suppression, and/or immunosuppressive agents.

For more information on osteoporosis, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa (NOFSA) website at

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