To coincide with this year World Osteoporosis Day (WOD), Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has launched a public awareness campaign to encourage Qatar residents to get screened for osteoporosis – a medical condition which causes bones to become weak and brittle.
The public awareness campaign, which started this week in Al Khor Hospital on Monday, will also be run at Al Wakra Hospital on Wednesday and Thursday 21 - 22 October and in Hamad General Hospital (HGH) on 25 and 26 October.
Also on Sunday 25 October, HMC’s Rheumatology Division at the Medicine Department will host a talk on this year’s WOD theme: “Serve up bone strength” by Dr. Nadia Al-Ali, Consultant and Head of the Endocrinology and Metabolism Department, Amiri Hospital, Kuwait, at HMC’s Hajar Auditorium from 1:30pm to 2:30pm.
WOD takes place every year on 20 October, launching a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.
The WOD 2015 campaign, launched by the International Osteoporosis Foundation with the call to 'Serve up bone strength', focuses on the importance of adopting a bone-healthy diet from early life through to old age. This year’s theme underlines the fact that a lifelong commitment to bone-healthy nutrition is a critical aspect of osteoporosis prevention later in life.
Dr. Samar Al Emadi, Senior Consultant in the Rheumatology Division at the Medicine Department, and Qatar representative at the Pan Arab Osteoporosis Society said: “Prevention of osteoporosis through screening and early detection as well as simple lifestyle changes such as increased exposure to sunlight, regular exercise, avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking are more important than treating the lifestyle disease.”
“During the campaign, in each of the three hospitals we will educate patients and visitors to the outpatient departments by distributing pamphlets containing information describing osteoporosis, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment,” she said, adding: “Patient educators and rheumatology doctors will also be available to answer any questions that members of the public might have.”
She mentioned that osteoporosis screening questionnaires will be offered to interested members of the public. “We have prepared separate questionnaires for men and women. If people are found to be positive for osteoporosis during the screening, they will be advised to go for bone densitometry (BMD) testing through appointment at Rumailah Hospital,” said Dr. Al Emadi. “Later, after the BMD testing, we will follow up by informing each patient over the phone about their results. If any patient is found to have low bone mass during the BMD testing, we will give them an appointment to the rheumatology clinics for further evaluation and treatment.”
“Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, meaning that a fall or even mild stresses, like bending over or coughing, can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine,” stated Dr. Al Emadi.
She explained that bone is a dynamic structure and a living tissue, which is constantly being absorbed and replaced. “Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the removal of old bone. It usually begins in people in their mid-30s and it mostly occurs among females because the estrogen hormone that controls the strength of the bone will diminish after women reach menopausal age. “At this stage, women’s bones lose the effects and protection of estrogen. This loss in the bone mass will lead to osteoporosis.”
Dr. Al Emadi mentioned that there are primary (post-menopausal) and secondary forms of osteoporosis, which could develop due to hormonal changes, choice of diets and lack of exposure to sunlight. She said osteoporosis could also be related to some kidney diseases or use of certain medications like steroids.
According to her, other causes could be malabsorption of calcium (due to defect in the kidney) and vitamin D into the bones from the intestines; renal (kidney) disease; taking certain medications like anti-epileptic drugs or steroids (taking over 7mg for more than three months), cortisone prescribed for patients with rheumatoid arthritis or joint pain, or for some skin diseases.
Dr. Al Emadi said there are typically no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, one may have signs and symptoms that include:
• Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
• Loss of height over time
• A stooped posture
• A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected
She stressed that a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use can all increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis. “People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts. Any weight-bearing exercise is beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, swimming, dancing and weightlifting seems particularly helpful for creating healthy bones.”
Dr. Al Emadi called on residents to avoid habits that could impact their bone structure or cause bone mass loss that could lead to osteoporosis. “The good habits will be to increase consumption of foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, or add supplements and tablets. For instance, drinking a pint of milk a day will give the daily dietary requirement of calcium, while theame dietary intake can be obtained by consuming cheddar cheese, yogurt, sardines, calcium-fortified soya milk, okra, spinach, water cress, dry apricot or dry figs.”
“Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium. The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn't clearly understood, but researchers do know that tobacco use contributes to weak bones,” she added.