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Mr R Murray, Rochdale

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"Silent Epidemic" - Osteoporosis Helped by Walking

"1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will break a bone, mainly because of osteoporosis".

- Says the National Osteoporosis Society

Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’ and is often referred to as the ‘fragile bone disease’.

Osteoporosis is usually a disease of older age, although it can affect people of any age. Bones are influenced by genetics and lifestyle and bone mass peaks by the time we are in our mid 20s. This highlights the importance of beginning to take positive healthy lifestyle steps early in life to decrease the potentially disabling effects of osteoporotic fractures in later years.

The lifetime risk of fracture in women at age 50 years is greater than the risk of breast cancer or cardiovascular disease. For women, the risk of sustaining a hip fracture is greater than the risk of developing breast cancer. Sadly 80% of older women would rather die than experience the reduced quality of life that follows a serious hip fracture and subsequent admission to a nursing home.

The combined cost of hospital and social care for patients with a hip fracture amounts to more than £1.73 billion per year in the UK. This is very similar to the £1.75 billion that coronary heart disease costs the healthcare system each year. The total cost of all fractures each year in the UK is the same as the predicted cost of London hosting the 2012 Olympics.

The health benefits of exercise have been demonstrated in both sexes up to the age of 90 years. For optimal protection, activity should be maintained throughout life. The most effective form of exercise to strengthen bones is impact exercise, including walking!

Physical activity can delay the progression of osteoporosis by slowing the rate at which bone mineral density is reduced from the late 20’s onwards. Recent research studies in the USA have shown that active women, who walk for at least 6 hours per week, have a 55% reduction in risk of hip fracture (41% in women who walk for 4 hours a week) compared to sedentary women who walk for less than 1 hour per week.

"Anything that makes bone bear weight is good for bone quality," said Dr. Kirkham Wood, head of orthopaedic spine surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. "All bones – spine bones and big leg bones – will respond to pressure from weight by forming more bone."

More than 1 in 3 adults in the UK (1 in 2 over 50 year olds) are currently inactive, that is, they participate in less than 30 minutes of activity per week.

Thinking about your health is Good! Doing exercise to protect your health is even Better!

You have the power to improve your own health.

The best 'Pill' you can take is Exercise!