Osteoporosis receives a lot of attention in the U.S., and rightly so; it’s the most common bone disease and between a third and a half of women over 50 will experience a bone fracture due to the condition. Osteoporosis is characterized by the weakening of bones as we age. Women are more susceptible to the condition because hormonal changes during menopause negatively impact bone density.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) recently brought to light the massive problem posed by osteoporosis in other parts of the world, namely the Asia Pacific region. A number of confluent factors are expected to contribute to a dramatic increase in osteoporosis-related fractures throughout the region in the near future.
The IOF’s latest report included 16 countries – several Asian countries, India, Australia and New Zealand among them. One of the main causes of alarm among these countries is that most of them will have populations at least a third of which will be over 50 years of age by 2050.
Another reason why osteoporosis is of particular concern in this region is that many of its inhabitants consume low levels of calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients are typically found in meat and dairy products, which are not featured heavily in many Asia Pacific region diets. This means that inhabitants are likely to accrue less bone to begin with early in life, increasing their osteoporosis risk from the start. Research is not conclusive, but it is also possible that high salt consumption in the region increases risk of brittle bones.
A third reason why osteoporosis is such a concern in this region is inadequate health care response to the condition. Lack of awareness in the general public, insufficient access to diagnostic testing and inadequate treatment rates leave people with osteoporosis susceptible to chronic pain and disability as they age in certain countries. When a patient suffers a hip fracture, receiving surgery within two days is thought to significantly lower disability and mortality rates; in some countries surveyed by the IOF, only 50% of hip fractures receive surgical treatment (25% in Thailand). Those who do receive surgery are subjected to wait times of three days or longer in many locations.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation works to establish the health, independence and wellness of all human beings as priorities throughout the world. Their research allows them to identify barriers to osteoporosis prevention and treatment in various countries and to analyze effective measures for combating the disease. The IOF helps connect the many osteoporosis foundations so that they can work together toward their common cause.
You can volunteer with or donate to the IOF to help them further their mission. See www.iofbonehealth.org.