Osteoporosis in Asia

Osteoporosis is often referred to as the silent disease or even the silent killer. The disease often develops over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort, and goes unnoticed until a fracture occurs. Osteoporosis often causes a loss of height and dowager’s hump due to fractures of the spine. Fractures of the spine, wrist and hip are most common.

Osteoporosis can be predicted to be a new burden to public health in Asia. Many would argue that it already is as the number of Asians affected has been steadily on the rise. Currently, the incidence of osteoporosis-related fractures is lower there than in most western communities, however it is projected that by the first half of the century half of the hip fractures which occur worldwide will be in Asians as a result of an aging population, a decrease in physical activity and westernization of lifestyles.

Fractures

Hip fractures are the most serious and debilitating fractures associated with osteoporosis and have the highest morbidity and mortality rate. No too mention that most hip fracture patients are no longer able to live independently.

Hip fractures are expensive. The cost of treating hip fractures in Hong Kong already exceeds 1% of the total hospital budget.

It has been projected that this cost will rise exponentially as the population ages and many experts predict that the resulting cost will be a sufficient financial burden to consume current economic gain and cripple the future advancing development of Asian countries.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for osteoporosis are the same for everyone. While anyone can be affected by osteoporosis there are factors that increase the likelihood of getting it.

Some of these factors are uncontrollable and include advanced age, thin or small frame, family history, and there are others relating to lifestyle that can be changed such as diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Fortunately, Asians, the rural population and farmers in particular, have the favorable lifestyle, including high physical activity and exposure to sunlight.

Strikingly, tea drinking, a daily habit in Asia, is also identified as a protective factor against osteoporosis. Public health education is needed to encourage the Asian population to maintain their traditionally good lifestyle and to reduce the risk factors for osteoporosis.

There is no question that strategy for prevention should be implemented including raising awareness, but the most pressing problem is finding the money for prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Another hurdle that needs to be overcome is reaching the right people in these areas and getting them to pay attention and institute a change in thought and behavior.

Statistics for osteoporosis in Asia show that in some regions, osteoporosis has already reached epic proportions. In regions where osteoporosis was virtually unheard of until very recently, the numbers are steadily rising.

Over a period of thirty years the number of cases in China has tripled while it has increased two fold in Hong Kong and in Singapore have gone up 5 times in women and 1.5 times in men. In ten years the occurrence of hip fractures increased about four fold in Korea. Interestingly enough, there is a higher incidence of hip fractures in men than women in China