Osteoporosis is a fairly common condition, affecting around three million people in the UK. It weakens bones and makes them fragile and more prone to breaks. There are often no warning signs, and the condition is only diagnosed when a simple fall or sudden impact fractures a bone. Sometimes, even a cough or sneeze can cause a rib to fracture. Whilst a fracture is the first sign of osteoporosis, a characteristic of some older people is stooping; bending forward, as fractured bones in the spine make supporting the body problematic. A broken bone can be a serious issue. A hip fracture, for example, could lead to long-term mobility problems. Osteoporosis is caused by bones repairing more slowly as you age. Bone density gradually starts to decrease from around 35 years of age and especially in women in the first few years after menopause, due to hormone changes. This is a normal aspect of the aging process, but for some can develop into osteoporosis. You are more at risk of developing osteoporosis if you: • have any inflammatory conditions • have a condition that affects the hormone-producing glands • have a family history of osteoporosis • have used certain medications, long-term, that affect bone strength or hormone levels • have malabsorption problems • drink and smoke heavily There are a few preventative measures you can take if you are at risk of developing osteoporosis to help to keep your bones healthy, such as • taking regular exercise • eating healthily, especially foods rich in calcium and vitamin D • giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption The National Osteoporosis Society is a great source for information, and their website includes advice for living with osteoporosis and contact details of support groups throughout the UK. Please always seek professional medical advice if you have any concerns.