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Exercise key to osteoporosis prevention


Osteoporosis among residents living in aged care is being underdiagnosed, a new research study suggests.

The study published in the Sage Health Services Insights journal was undertaken by Macquarie University and looked at the prevalence of osteoporosis among people living in aged care and their treatment patterns.

The study involved examining electronic health records of 9,094 aged care residents over the age of 65 from 68 residential aged care facilities in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Although international studies show 85 per cent of people living in aged care report have osteoporosis, only 34 per cent of residents had the condition documented in their electronic health records, said Dr Kim Lind, research fellow at the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research at Macquarie University.

“We found that a third of people had osteoporosis documented somewhere in their electronic health record, and that’s surprising because based on international studies, we expected nearly everyone to have osteoporosis,” Dr Lind told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“The previous studies said it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 85 per cent of people have osteoporosis,” Dr Lind said.

Dr Lind said under-diagnosis of osteoporosis increases the risk of hip, spine and wrist fractures among older people and can lead to a high degree of morbidity and mortality.

The study also found that the use of vitamin D supplements to treat osteoporosis is on the rise and the use of antiresorptive medications, such as bisphosphonates, are decreasing.

Dr Kim Lind

Vitamin D supplements were used by 60 per cent of residents with osteoporosis, and 20 per cent were using vitamin D with a calcium supplement, the research found.

The rate of bisphosphonate had decreased among women from 30 per cent to 18 per cent during the study and from 39 per cent to 24 per cent among men.

Dr Lind says raising awareness about the benefits of physical activity can help prevent and even treat osteoporosis.

“It’s really important to be pushing the message about getting involved in physical activity, not just for prevention but also for treatment,” she said.

“The single best thing that everyone can do of all ages, is to make sure we are getting weight bearing exercises twice a week, and make sure that we have adequate calcium and vitamin D intake,” she said.

She said aged care providers need to think about all the medical issues residents may have, rather than just a single condition.

“When we look at our residential aged care population, they’re so medically complex, it’s not just osteoporosis that’s the issue, they have all these other conditions and so we have to think about what will be beneficial for the whole person,” Dr Lind said.

“Make sure they have a healthy diet which includes calcium, vitamin D, plenty of vegetables, well hydrated, have meaningful social engagement and measures that improve the quality of life,” she said.

Access the study, Anti-osteoporosis medication use in a high fracture-risk population: Contemporary trends in Australian residential aged care facilities here.

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