Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Research reveals lack of action against osteoporosis

Research released today has revealed that more than 40% of Australians aged 70 years and over have never had a bone density scan – also known as a DEXA scan – to determine their risk of osteoporosis.

Researchers say this is despite over two million Australians being at risk of the condition.

The research, commissioned as part of The Big O campaign, highlights the need for everyone aged 70 years and over to get a DEXA scan as currently recommended in the Australian osteoporosis guidelines.  

Professor Peter Ebeling AO, Head, Department of Medicine, Monash University says, “The important thing to know is that bone density testing is a birthday present when you turn 70. It’s reimbursed by the Government and a DEXA scan will alert your GP if your skeleton is showing signs of bone loss and if you need to take action.”

The research reveals that while 72% of older Australians with osteoporosis surveyed had their osteoporosis diagnosed as a result of a DEXA scan, only 19% of Australians aged over 70 years have had a DEXA scan in the last 12 months, compared to 83% who have had a flu vaccination, 75% who have had an eye test, 65% who have had a dental check-up, and 38% who have had a hearing test.  

“Two in three people aged over 70 years are at risk of osteoporotic fracture, which is why it is so important that Australians over 70 go and get a bone density scan, even if they don’t have any symptoms,” said Professor Peter Ebeling.

“For many patients a fracture is their first symptom. Undiagnosed osteoporosis can limit patients’ independence and shorten lives, and we are fortunate in Australia to have DEXA scans for over 70-year-olds funded by Medicare, so I am urging all older Australians to have this scan.” 

New guidelines for osteoporosis treatment expected to be released soon by RACGP, will include updated recommendations for GPs. Professor Ebeling said this will include encouraging the use of fracture risk assessment tools, particularly FRAX ® to help GPs easily assess a patient’s absolute fracture risk in the next five to 10 years. 

“We need to treat patients who’ve come into a hospital with a broken bone so that they don’t have another broken bone,” he said.

“If you are over 50 and come into hospital with a broken hip, you really need to go onto a treatment to prevent the next broken hip, a broken spinal bone, or other broken bones.” 

Simple measures that can help reduce the risk of falls in the elderly include removing hazards in the home, like rugs, as well as being aware of any deterioration in eyesight that occurs as we age. 

Osteoporosis costs Australia $33.6 billion over 10 years, and of the over 70-year-olds surveyed who had an osteoporosis diagnosis, the condition has impacted the ability of almost half (47%) to do day-to-day household chores, and two-fifths (41%) to exercise. 

The Big O campaign ambassador, Ita Buttrose said it was vital that all older Australians understand the importance of bone health.

“Despite 54% of over 70-year-olds claiming to be extremely or very aware of the risks of osteoporosis, over 40% of them have never had a DEXA scan,” she said.

“I want to jolt older Australians out of their complacency and remind them that osteoporosis screening is the big opportunity to help enjoy life to the fullest – or risk a life of missed opportunity.” 

To find out more about the campaign, or find out how to organise a DEXA scan, visit www.thebigo.com.au.

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