Abu Dhabi, UAE: The prevalence of osteoporosis, a condition marked by brittle and fragile bones that are prone to fracture, is set to double in the UAE by 2040 unless adequate precautions are taken, a top disease expert said.
In Abu Dhabi, 2,143 episodes of osteoporosis were recorded last year (2014), according to its health sector regulator, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad). These were identified through fractures reported to hospitals.
The disease, which is often silent until the patient experiences a debilitating fracture, is more common in older individuals. And the UAE population, which is still fairly young, will age over the next two decades, Dr Gemma Adib, chair of the International Osteoporosis Foundation Middle East and Africa Regional Advisory Committee, told Gulf News.
“Hip fractures are one of the most common osteoporosis-related bone fractures, and we see about 700 of these across the UAE each year,” Dr Adib said.
Osteoporosis also usually causes fractures in the wrist and spine, and because patients are typically older, these injuries take a long time to heal.
“In fact, 30 per cent of patients who experience hip fracture die within a year, while 30 per cent experience permanent disability. Osteoporosis therefore poses a big mortality risk, and also places a massive burden on patients’ families,” she explained.
Dr Adib was speaking on the sidelines of the third Middle East and Africa Osteoporosis Meeting organised by the IOF and the Emirates Osteoporosis Society.
Osteoporosis occurs as bone mineral density decreases because the creation of new bone tissue cannot keep up with the removal of old and dying bone tissue. Such changes in bone mineral density are often caused by hormonal changes that occur during menopause, genetic factors, or diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
In fact, osteoporosis is most common in menopausal women over the age of 50 years, or men aged 60 years or more. Other risk factors include living non-active lifestyles, smoking, alcohol consumption and deficiency in Vitamin D.
“Vitamin D deficiency greatly increases the risk of developing osteoporosis and about 78 per cent of the UAE population suffers from it,” Dr Adib said. In Abu Dhabi alone, 203,281 new episodes [of Vitamin deficiency] were reported in 2014.
The doctor therefore recommended that residents check with their doctors about taking Vitamin D supplements.
“Regular exercise is one of the best ways to protect against osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise for at least half an hour four times a week strengthens the bones and muscles, preventing fractures,” Dr Adib added.
Residents can also get their bone mineral density assessed with a special X-ray scan if they are worried about osteoporosis risk.
“There is increasing awareness about osteoporosis, but more needs to be done. The disease is a silent killer. After all, treating a hip fracture costs $40,000 (Dh146,918), and there are lifelong costs involved if the patient ends up disabled,” Dr Adib said.
© Gulf NewsDec 2015