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Empowering Aging Canadians

Are You At Risk for Osteoporosis?

Doctor examining an x-ray
Doctor examining an x-ray

Sponsored by: Amgen Canada

Dr. Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego

Executive Medical Director, Amgen Canada

Sebastian Sorsaburu

Vice President – Medical Affairs, Amgen’s Intercontinental Region, Amgen Canada

With Canada’s aging population, an undeniable reality, and seniors outnumbering children for the first time in the country’s history, age-related diseases are also increasing and are placing a large burden on older Canadians and those who care for them. 

Both women and men experience increased bone loss at around age 50, but women tend to lose more bone as they transition into menopause. Throughout a woman’s life, estrogen plays an important role in replacing older porous bone with newer dense bone. However, during menopause, a woman’s body starts to produce less estrogen. Over time, this can lead to osteoporosis — a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.

Osteoporosis is also a serious health issue for men, though they’re less likely to be assessed for osteoporosis or to receive treatment for it after they break a bone. All in all, the disease is responsible for 70%–90% of the 30,000 hip fractures that occur annually.

A far-reaching issue

“Statistics suggest that two million Canadians are affected by osteoporosis,” says Dr. Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, Executive Medical Director of Amgen Canada, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies. “Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined. One in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture in their remaining lifetime and over 80% of fractures in people over the age of 50 are caused by osteoporosis.”

Bone fractures are so common that they’re not always taken seriously, but no fracture should be ignored. It’s not just a fracture — it could be a warning sign. This is because a fracture that happens during activities of daily living, such as tripping, slipping, and falling, may indicate osteoporosis and increased risk for additional fractures. When it comes to age-related diseases like osteoporosis, awareness and early assessment are vital.

However, the first sign of osteoporosis is often a broken bone, and it’s known as a silent disease. “Even when you’re feeling great on the outside, your bones could be telling a different story on the inside,” says Dr. Motsepe-Ditshego. “If ignored, osteoporosis can jeopardize your ability to do things you love and to get around on your own, particularly when bone breaks occur in critical parts of the body, like the hip, pelvis, or spine.” This is why it’s important for people over the age of 50 to talk to their doctors and get assessed for osteoporosis. 

Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined.

Dr. Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, Amgen Canada

People living with osteoporosis face a reduced quality of life, lowered self-esteem, a reduction or loss of mobility, disfigurement, a lack of independence, and, in some cases, death — 28% of women and 37% of men who suffer a hip fracture will die within the following year. 

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, it’s possible to prevent, delay, or reduce bone loss through a healthy lifestyle. The agency’s website suggests that basic bone health for all individuals includes regular weight-bearing and resistance exercises as well as adequate vitamin D and calcium intake. The fact that the disease can be prevented makes it all the more important to increase awareness and education about bone health and osteoporosis amongst the general population, and to encourage people to discuss their risk factors with their doctors.

Raising awareness to combat osteoporosis 

On May 5th, 2019, Amgen Canada, located in Mississauga, ON, was one of ten Amgen affiliates working together around the world to successfully set the Guinness World Records title for the most osteoporosis screenings completed in 24 hours. 

The screenings took place during the Break Records, Not Bones event, which was designed to help increase awareness of osteoporosis. More than 7,000 participants around the world were screened as part of the awareness campaign.

“Amgen is a science-based company, so it was important to us to involve the Guinness World Records organization to endorse the count of osteoporosis screenings that were conducted during our Break Records, Not Bones health awareness campaign,” says Sebastian Sorsaburu, Vice President of Medical Affairs for Amgen’s Intercontinental Region. 

The event successfully helped to educate the general public on osteoporosis and to encourage older Canadians to get screened to determine if they might be at risk of having the disease and of suffering an osteoporosis-related fracture.

“While it’s exciting to have achieved an official Guinness World Records title, it’s even more rewarding to know that we helped raised awareness of a disease that often goes unnoticed,” says Dr. Motsepe-Ditshego. “The more people are aware of this disease, the better equipped they’ll be to take charge of their bone health.”

Dr. Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, Michael Empric, Guinness World Records representative, Francesco Di Marco, VP and General Manager and Robert Argiropoulos, Executive Director, Amgen Canada at the Break Records Not Bones event.
Dr. Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, Michael Empric, Guinness World Records representative, Francesco Di Marco, VP and General Manager and Robert Argiropoulos, Executive Director, Amgen Canada at the Break Records Not Bones event.

Moving forward

It’s important that older Canadians be aware of the tools and services available to them that can help to enhance their quality of life. Getting assessed for osteoporosis by their doctor is a vital step.

“I appreciate the importance of an awareness campaign like this. Bone health matters a great deal,” says Dr. Motsepe-Ditshego. “That’s why it’s so important to help raise awareness of osteoporosis among the general public, and to encourage people to talk to their doctors to learn more.”

It may be hard to recognize all risk factors as the disease is often silent. Talk to your doctor about your risk potential and when you should start osteoporosis screening so you can take charge of your bone health today. This is especially important for anyone with symptoms of osteoporosis or who has had a fracture.

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