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Warning over lack of awareness and understanding of osteoporosis

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By Jennifer Cockerell, Press Association Health Correspondent

Around half of women over the age of 50 in the UK will experience a fragility fracture due to osteoporosis, yet nearly three-quarters (73%) said they have little or no knowledge of the condition.

Two-thirds (66%) of the women polled believed that fragility fractures in older age are a result of an unlucky fall or accident, rather than the result of an underlying bone condition, while four out of five (81%) said their doctor had never spoken to them about the condition, despite women being most at risk.

Biopharmaceutical company UCB said its survey of more than 4,000 women from 10 countries reveals a "staggering" lack of awareness and understanding of osteoporosis and fragility fractures in those most at risk.

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million people worldwide and is the most common bone disease in the world, resulting in more than 8.9 million fragility fractures annually.

It affects more than three million people in the UK, with some 500,000 people receiving hospital treatment for fragility fractures every year as a result.

For those who suffer a hip fracture, two out of five (40%) are not able to walk independently again and up to a quarter (25%) will die in the first year after the fracture.

The company has released the results of its survey, which included 500 women over the age of 60 in the UK, to mark World Osteoporosis Day on Saturday.

It found more than two-thirds (69%) of those questioned said they believe fragile bones are an inevitable part of getting older, while 17% said they felt there is little that can be done to avoid osteoporosis, despite there being several ways to prevent bone loss and maintain bone strength.

Eating healthily, including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, carrying out regular exercise, and making lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can all contribute to healthier bones.

Dr Philippe Halbout, chief executive of the International Osteoporosis Foundation, said: "People are living longer, and expecting more out of life, yet the dangers that accompany this are mute.

"The physical and psychological impact of osteoporosis and fragility fractures is huge, and, if they are not treated with the same urgency as other life-threatening diseases, then their burden could cripple healthcare systems, society, families and individuals around the world."

UCB executive vice president Dr Pascale Richetta said: "The survey shows those most likely to experience a fragility fracture are unaware of the condition and the significant impact it can have on their independence and quality of life.

"From the survey it's plain to see that today's over-60s maintain a great passion for life and aspirations beyond those of their parents' generation so questions must be asked as to why a condition that today causes more than 8.9 million fragility fractures annually and is a major obstacle to healthy ageing is being overlooked."

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