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Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become thin, brittle and weak. It leads to an increased risk of fractures (broken bones) especially of the spine, wrist, hip, pelvis and upper arms. 1-3 Sometimes a minor fall or even bending over or coughing can cause a fracture in a person suffering from osteoporosis. 3

5 things you should know about osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is often called the silent disease

In most cases, the bone loss is gradual and there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. 1-3 Unfortunately, in many cases, the first real “symptom” is a broken bone.2 Osteoporosis can also result in loss of height & a stooped posture over time, caused by fractures of the spine, which can be painless. 3-5

visual: compression fracture of the spine

Osteoporosis is common

In South Africa, about one in three women and one in five men will break a bone because of osteoporosis, which means potentially between 4 and 6 million South Africans suffer from osteoporosis. 2

Some of the common risk factors for osteoporosis are: 3,4

  • Your age: the older you get, the greater the risk
  • A close relative having osteoporosis
  • Menopause before the age of 45
  • Not being physically active
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Not getting enough calcium & vitamin D
  • Certain medications

Assess your risk for osteoporosis by completing the National Osteoporosis Foundation of SA (NOFSA) self-assessment at

Osteoporosis can be treated

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, 2 there are a number of treatments and medications available that can assist those living with the disease, for both men and women. 3 These include drugs called bisphosphonates and hormone-related therapy. 3

If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, speak to your Medicare Pharmacy Healthcare professional about calcium supplements.

Osteoporosis is serious

It is a myth that osteoporosis is a normal part of ageing. 4 Breaking a bone is the most serious complication of osteoporosis, especially in elderly people. 1 Hip fractures are often caused by a fall, and apart from causing severe pain, they can cause disability, which can lead to feelings of isolation or depression. 1,3 There is even an increased risk of death within the first year after a hip fracture, related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it. 1

dumbbell, apple and running shoes on blue background

Osteoporosis can be prevented

There are two important things you can do to help prevent this bone disease from developing, or to assist the body once osteoporosis has formed: 2

  • Regular exercise especially weight-bearing, balance and strength exercise. 3 Exercise strengthens bones and muscles and also helps to improve balance and coordination, which can help prevent the falls and fall-related fractures. 2,3
  • Getting the right nutrients in your diet which include calcium, vitamin D, and protein. 2 Good sources are dairy products, fresh fruit & vegetables & foods high in protein like meat, chicken, fish, eggs & legumes. 2

Calcium is a major building block of our bone tissue and is important for preventing osteoporosis. 5 The recommended daily amount of calcium for women over 50 is 1,200 milligrams. 3

The treatment of advanced osteoporosis is difficult and the real key to the management of this disease is prevention, so early detection of people at risk is very important. 4 If your doctor thinks you may be at risk, he/she may send you for a bone mineral density (BMD) test. 5 This test is done by a machine that uses low levels of X-rays to determine the proportion of mineral in your bones. 3 During this painless test, you lie on a padded table as a scanner passes over your body. 3

visual: xray of bone fracture with graph

If you would like to better understand your risk of osteoporosis and treatment options, speak to your Medicare Pharmacy healthcare professional about our doctor video consultation.

References: 1. National Osteoporosis Foundation. What is Osteoporosis and What Causes. [Online] 2018 [cited 2018 Jun 27]. Available from URL: 2. National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa. Information. [Online] 2017 [cited 2018 Jun 27]. Available from URL: 3. Mayo Clinic. Osteoporosis. [Online] 2016 July 06 [cited 2018 Jun 27]. Available from URL: 4. National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa. A-Z of osteoporosis. [Online] 2017 [cited 2018 Jun 27]. Available from URL: 5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Osteoporosis. [Online] 2011 Aug [cited 2018 Jun 27] Available from URL:


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