Older women at risk of brittle bones

But Ajman University study shows it’s the younger women who know more about causes and prevention of osteoporosis.

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AJMAN // Inactive lifestyles and obesity are putting women at greater risk of osteoporosis, a condition that leaves them frail and at risk of bone fractures.

A study by Ajman University has found that women are aware of its symptoms and risk factors, but doctors say most ignore preventive measures.

The UAE population is among those most at risk of vitamin D deficiency, another key cause, with about 78 per cent suffering from it.

Researchers aimed to assess awareness about osteoporosis among women older than 40.

The study found women knew walking was food for bone heath, and that after menopause women needed calcium supplements.

“Osteoporosis is a significant problem worldwide and nowadays it has become more significant in UAE, with the prevalence set to double by 2040,” said Dr Nageeb Hassan, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Ajman University.

“No clear statistics show the exact number of women affected by osteoporosis but according to the Abu Dhabi health regulator, 2,143 episodes of osteoporosis were recorded in 2014.”

Women who have undergone menopause are most vulnerable.

The results of the study showed 83 per cent of pre-menopausal women had high levels of knowledge of the problem, compared with 73 per cent for women who had been through menopause.

A total of 368 sample questionnaires were collected between December last year and February.

The women were asked about symptoms, preventive measures and risk factors of osteoporosis.

“There is increasing awareness among women in UAE toward osteoporosis due to different campaigns in different health sectors,” Dr Hassan said. “We think women will start taking preventive steps toward osteoporosis due to increasing numbers of awareness campaigns.”

Leading a healthy lifestyle and ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake are some preventive measures.

Dr Nazura Siddiqi, specialist gynaecologist at Bareen International Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said sedentary living and obesity were two of the biggest risk factors. Women are living longer and are more prone to osteoporosis.

“Because of extreme heat in UAE, most people have an underlying vitamin D deficiency,” said Dr Siddiqi, describing the tendency to stay out of the sun.

“If you have vitamin D deficiency, and are pre-menopausal, you are likely to have calcium deficiency. In post-menopause, oestrogen levels go down and oestrogen is a bone protective factor.

“The best thing to do is to keep active and do some weight-bearing exercises. Having a calcium rich diet also helps. The most important thing is awareness. If a post menopausal woman has a fall she has a very high chance of getting a fracture.”

Dr Raul Barrios, orthopaedic surgeon at Burjeel Hospital, said members of the public were beginning to understand the risks.

“I see that there is more awareness in the young population,” Dr Barrios said. “The screening is only recommended for people who are at risk and not everyone has to get a bone density scan.”

People who have a mal-absorption problem – whose bodies cannot process vitamin D and calcium – and women at risk of osteoporosis should be screened.

Osteoporosis affects about 200 million women worldwide and causes more than 8.9 million bone fractures every year.