What families should know about bone density

10 risk factors for osteoporosis
Thursday, December 8 2022

One in three women, and one in five men over 50 years old are likely to suffer bone fractures related to osteoporosis, or loss of bone density1. This holiday season is an ideal opportunity for families to discuss the importance of bone mineral density awareness at all life stages as osteoporosis can often be prevented or its progression delayed.

Pic: Bone mineral density tends to decrease as we get older, weakening the structure of our bones and making them less resilient. It is important to be aware of the risk factors, and discuss the need for regular bone mineral density screening with your doctor. To help raise awareness, J Khan Inc Bone Mineral Density (BMD) centre based at Netcare Kingsway Hospital provided a number of pro bono screenings to residents of three nearby retirement homes. Residents of Mooi Hawens Ouetehuis are pictured during their bone mineral density screenings. Mrs Isabella Sentensky is pictured with radiographer Tash Pillay, Mr Ron McClatchie is pictured with radiographer Azra Bux, and Mrs Edda Dranal is pictured with radiographer Azra Bux.

“At age 30 we reach our peak in terms of bone density, and as we get older our bodies tend to start shedding the minerals that support strong, healthy bones,” says radiographer Mr Jafar Khan, director of J Khan Inc Bone Mineral Density (BMD) centre at Netcare Kingsway Hospital.

“Bone mineral density tends to decrease as we get older, weakening the structure of the bone and making it less resilient. The first stage of bone degeneration is known as osteopenia, which can develop into osteoporosis and eventually lead to the bones becoming brittle and more vulnerable to fragility fractures.”

Mr Khan says that although osteoporosis is most commonly associated with women after menopause, men and women of all ages can be affected, and even children in rare cases. “It is important to be aware of the risk factors for ourselves and our loved ones, and discuss bone mineral density regularly with your doctor to prevent or address this ‘silent’ condition before it becomes potentially debilitating.”



Risk factors for lower bone mineral density

  • Although osteoporosis often develops after 50, preventative care should start at a young age.
  • People with type 1 diabetes are prone to losing bone mineral density more quickly.
  • Anyone who has had a hip fracture, or whose biological mother has had a hip fracture.
  • Smoking affects the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients required to maintain healthy bone mass.
  • Unmanaged thyroid and parathyroid conditions can cause loss of bone mass. Certain high dose thyroid replacement medicines can also impact bone mineral density.
  • Hysterectomy at a young age and polycystic ovary syndrome may lead to hormone imbalances, affecting the body’s ability to regenerate healthy bone.
  • Chronic kidney or liver disease can increase the risk for osteoporosis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis significantly increases the risk of fragility fractures.
  • People with high bone turnover, which is usually detected through excessive collagen in urine tests.
  • Certain medications have bone loss as a side effect, including corticosteroids such as prednisone and various anti-seizure medications, among others.

“As there are so many factors that contribute to individual risk, it is worth speaking to your physician about your individual risk. Women in particular should discuss the possibility of supplementing their calcium intake or any other nutrients as a preventative measure. Where needed, your doctor can refer you for bone mineral density scanning to determine future risk of fragility fractures,” Mr Khan explains.

Bone mineral density testing is completely painless. The patient is positioned lying either on their back or their side for the scan, which takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Discuss your medical history with the radiography team and make them aware of any surgical implants or internal prostheses you may have. Metallic objects, including jewellery, zips and metal trims on clothing, should not be worn during the scan as these interfere with the scanning equipment.

“The earlier reduced bone density is detected, the better the outcomes are likely to be. Often medication can decelerate further damage and we are able the monitor the progress of treatment with annual scans, and in some cases an osteopenic state can be reversed,” Mr Khan adds.

Tips for prevention of osteoporosis:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Do regular weight-bearing and aerobic exercise.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet.
  • Have regular routine health screenings.
  • Speak to your doctor about whether you should be taking calcium supplements.
  • Monitor your bone mineral density with your doctor as you grow older.

As part of J Khan Inc. Bone Mineral Density services (BMD) to create awareness about this important health condition, it recently donated 10 pro bono bone mineral density tests each to three retirement homes near Netcare Kingsway Hospital.
“We hope that bringing this service to the community of Amanzimtoti and surrounds will make it more convenient for people to be mindful of their bone health, so that any risks can be addressed as early as possible,” he says.

“Too often, people only become aware that they have low bone density when they suffer a fragility fracture, commonly in a spinal vertebra or a hip, which can seriously affect independence and quality of life as we get older. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to osteoporosis and this starts with awareness in our families and communities,” Mr Khan concludes.


References available on request

Notes to editor

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