76-year-old North Rocks local is “Stepping On” this World Osteoporosis Day

Allan is stoked about his return to lawn bowls.

Whilst out in his garden one beautiful sunny day, seventy-six-year-old North Rocks local Allan fell and broke his arm after pulling on the garden hose with a little too much gusto.

The fracture landed Allan in Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Westmead Hospital where he underwent surgery and discovered he had osteoporosis.

This isn’t an uncommon story with one in five men and one in three women aged 50 and over experiencing a bone fracture because of a fall, due to osteoporosis (porous bone).

Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose density, causing them to break more easily and often leads to pain, disability, and a loss of independence in the individual with the condition.

To help rebuild his confidence and get him back to playing lawn bowls, Allan was referred to the Osteoporosis Refracture Prevention (ORP) Service at Westmead Hospital which helps diagnose and treat people with osteoporosis.

ORP fracture liaison coordinator Minh Nguyen and WSLHD staff specialist in Endocrinology Associate Professor Christian Girgis supported Allan’s next treatment steps which involved tests to check his bone health, blood tests and a DEXA scan which measures bone density (strength) and can provide information about a person’s risk of osteoporosis and bone breaks.

“Having a DEXA scan is similar to getting an x-ray and the information gathered helps a health care team to start treatments to improve bone health,” said Minh.

Allan was initially tentative about attending the ORP but quickly changed his mind when the service helped him understand how early treatment helps to prevent future bone fractures.

“At first, I didn’t really think I need it, but they helped me learn more about my bone health and have started me on some tablets,” he said.

Allan was then referred to the free, seven-week WSLHD falls prevention program “Stepping On” to improve his balance and strength in the hopes of preventing future falls.

Stepping On runs at various locations across western Sydney.

Elise Harding from the Centre of Population Health‘s Healthy Ageing team saidStepping On builds knowledge, strength and confidence.

“The program includes balance and strength exercises as well as presentations by expert guest speakers about ways to prevent falls and tips for a bone-healthy lifestyle,” said Elise.

Elise Harding (pictured left) from the Centre for Population Health’s Healthy Ageing team, encourages over 65s and Aboriginal people over 45 to try “Stepping On”.

After completing Stepping On, Allan felt his balance improve and returned to playing his beloved lawn bowls.

Reflecting on his experience post-recovery, Allan is thankful he took the advice and guidance of his WSLHD specialist teams on osteoporosisand how to manage the condition.

“The staff at Westmead were really great, especially considering it was during the COVID-19 period,” said Allan.

“My confidence is improving with each day and I am glad to be back playing lawn bowls.”

How do you get osteoporosis?

There are a range of factors that can contribute to osteoporosis. These include:

  • being over 70 years of age
  • being female
  • having fallen in the past
  • your parents having had hip fractures
  • early menopause.

Plus other risk factors (which can be reduced or prevented):

  • not being physically active
  • low muscle mass and strength
  • low body weight
  • smoking
  • high alcohol intake.

Over 50?

Here are some simple tips to prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones healthy:

  • Try eating 3 to 4 serves of calcium rich foods each day, such as low-fat cow’s milk, cheese, yoghurt, canned fish (with bones, such as salmon or sardines) or soy milk with added calcium
  • Aim to have 15 minutes of sun each day for vitamin D
  • Do regular weight-bearing exercise, such as weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol to no more than two standard drinks per day
  • Chat to your doctor about your personal risk factors, and
  • Enrol in the Stepping On program to learn about balance training exercises and to hear from expert guest speakers about how to help prevent falls.

Helpful links

  • If you are over 65, live in the community and can walk independently unaided and would like to learn more about the Stepping On program, call (02) 9840 3603 or email WSLHD-Activeandhealthy@health.nsw.gov.au. We offer a number of Stepping On programs in different languages various locations across western Sydney.
  • If you would like to learn more about your potential osteoporosis risk factors– take the IOF Osteoporosis Risk Check. If you have risk factors, talk to your doctor, and ask for testing and treatment if needed.
  • If you are over 50 and have had a recent fracture from minimal trauma (such as a fall from standing height), talk with your local doctor about whether a referral to the Osteoporosis Refracture Prevention Clinic may be appropriate.