It's got to be fair to say I'm becoming aware of my age, I'm being reminded of every old injury each morning, and I wonder just what pressure my life and my lifestyle has placed on my body over the last 4 1/2 decades. What is my risk of breaking a bone due to Osteoporosis?
I've carried 5 children, then breastfed them for just over 8 years in total. I've broken a few minor bones, dislocated my arm and had major abdominal surgery. I've drunk far more than my fair share of alcohol and never had as much sleep or exercise as I should. I've been a vegetarian for over 30 years, and although I do have good understanding of nutrition, you can't help but wonder if any of the people who tell you "you'll never get enough xyz" are right.
The National Osteoporosis Society say:
"1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will break a bone as a result of osteoporosis."
"It is estimated that around 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis. This can lead to bones becoming fragile and breaking easily, resulting in pain and disability. Much can be done to treat osteoporosis and prevent fractures. We are committed to helping people with osteoporosis live the lives they want to lead."
If it's something I can help, then I'd be a fool not to find out, and I'm trying to embrace my age rather than deny it, so I took the test. There was a daunting looking form, but it turned out to only be 5 minutes and no tricky questions. I had to cut off a bit of nail, and as all my fingernails were kind of matching for once, I plumped for a toe. You only need a tiny bit of nail, pop it in the bag and send it off. You can choose get your results by email or letter.
The Osentia Osteoporosis Blood Test will tell you your risk of suffering fragility fractures, a common sign of Osteoporosis. Risk is split into 3 levels, politely termed 'Lower Than Average', 'Moderate' or 'Relatively High'. (Nice try, but I think we all recognise the traffic light system.)
No-one in my family has ever really suffered badly from Osteoporosis. There are a few genetic quirks, colourblindness, dyslexia, arthritis, being very short etc., but I've no memories of broken hips or limbs. I figured inheritance might have provided me with the ability to save enough calcium, Vitamin D and everything else I might need to at least balance out the breastfeeding.
I didn't have to wonder very long, because it was less than a week later that I had my results.
The results are okay actually, I expected worse, so I'm happy. I have a slightly increased risk for a person of my age, but I'm still well in the green. To be fair I was actually 45, and I'm sure they have me at 43 3/4 there...
The report also contains tailored advice on managing your risk of breaking a bone, based on your responses to the questions on the order form - relating to alcohol, weight, smoking, family history etc. Everyone who has a risk in either orange or red is advised to see a Medical Professional (Pharmacist or Doctor as appropriate) for advice.
Osteoporosis can be cruel, because often you don't know you have it until you break something important. Hopefully I'm good for another 15-20 years yet, but actually it is reassuring to know that, and also to know I do need to increase my Calcium intake a little, make sure I get plenty of sunlight each Summer, and keep walking to school and back twice a day...
I'm an advocate of the NHS, and I think I'd rightly have trouble convincing my Doctor to test me for bone fragility as I've no actual evidence to suggest I'd need it. I am strangely comforted by my results though, and I think if it was something you'd considered before, you had a family history or other risk factors and it might prey on your mind, then it's possibly worth doing.
The Osentia Osteoporosis Screening Test is available exclusively at Superdrug and on the Osentia website, and costs £39.99. I was sent mine for review.