50,000 screened: a third at risk in UAE, KSA

A bone scan of some 50,000 volunteers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait has found that more than a third (around 20,000) are at moderate to high risk of developing osteoporosis. The screening initiative – the Anlene Bone Health Check – was sponsored by the Anlene dairy brand and was carried out over two years.

Speaking to Middle East Health, Joanne Todd, Senior Health Platform Manager for Fonterra Brands, the company responsible for the Anlene dairy brand, said about 10% of those screened were in the high risk category.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bone is reduced, increasing the risk of fracture. It is an increasing concern in all countries, particularly those with large and growing populations over the age of 50.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), worldwide one in three women and one in five men over the age of fifty will suffer an osteoporotic fracture. It is referred to as the ‘silent epidemic’ as there are no symptoms.

In Europe a fracture occurs every 8 seconds. Fractures can have serious consequences, causing pain and debilitation. They often result in lost quality of life, long-term dependence, or even death; one in five hip fracture patients die within 12 months of fracture.

The IOF says that despite its widespread impact, the socioeconomic burden of osteoporosis is sadly underestimated. Few governments recognise the enormous cost that the disease represents to individuals, their families, healthcare systems and facilities for the elderly.

According to the IOF, critical years for building bone mass are during childhood and adolescence, when new bone is formed more quickly than old bone is removed, causing bones to become larger and denser. This pace continues until around the mid 20’s when maximum bone density is normally reached. Bone tissue loss generally begins after the age of about 40.

There is no cure for osteoporosis, but it can be treated with a range of drugs available for postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Although osteoporosis has a large genetic component it has a range of risk factors, which fall into two categories – fixed, the risk factors we cannot change, and modifiable, those we can change.

Fixed risk factors include age, gender and genetics. Modifiable risk factors include diet and lifestyle such as consumption of alcohol, poor nutrition, smoking, low body mass index and insufficient exercise.

Modifiable risk factors can be reduced by individual action.

“Prevention is key,” said Todd.

“Preventive measures should include weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, dancing and running, as well as correct nutrition,” she explained.

“People should also expose themselves to sunlight daily,” she said. “Just 10 minutes a day on the hands and face is sufficient.”

When the skin is exposed to sunlight it synthesises Vitamin D, which is essential for the development and maintenance of bone, by assisting calcium absorption from the gut, and for ensuring the correct renewal and mineralisation of bone tissue. Vitamin D, synthesised in the skin is usually sufficient for most individuals, however dietary or supplemental vitamin D becomes especially important for elderly people who do not go outdoors much, and in whom the capacity for skin synthesis of vitamin D is reduced. Vitamin D deficiency in older adults can increase the risk for osteoporosis. Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, and fortified foods such as margarine, dairy foods and cereals.

“Anlene is a fortified milk specifically developed for the promotion of bone health, explained Todd.

● For more information about osteoporosis in the MENA region visit: http://www.iofbonehealth.org/mena.html  

ate of upload: 26th Jan 2010

                                               Copyright © 2010 MiddleEastHealthMag.com. All Rights Reserved.