KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 — The Osteoporosis Awareness Society of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (OASKLS), Fragility Fracture Network Malaysia (FFNM), and Malaysian Osteoporosis Society (MOS) signed a memorandum of understanding to officiate the formation of the Bone Health Alliance Malaysia (BHAM). Amgen Malaysia is a Supporting Corporate Partner of BHAM.
Sharing the same interests, the collaborative partnership aims to pave the way for bone health education among local communities, correct the misconception that osteoporosis is unpreventable, organise meaningful stakeholder engagement, as well as enhance treatment and diagnosis with the purpose of improving patient outcomes. As most patients only find out they have osteoporosis upon a fracture, BHAM emphasises the importance of considering your risk factors and planning your prevention strategy, channelling the message ‘Don’t Wait ‘Till It Breaks, Check Your Bones’.
Osteoporosis Related Fractures Can Be Fatal
Osteoporosis remains underdiagnosed and undertreated in Malaysia, with very little data documented on its prevalence. 77 per cent of Malaysian women living with post-menopausal osteoporosis (PMO) are undiagnosed. A key contributing factor is that awareness on the importance of bone health is extremely low, coupled with the lack of recognition for osteoporosis as a health priority. It is a silent disease with no symptoms and often goes unnoticed until patients experience a fracture.
The disease does not show any obvious symptoms, and a lot of people do not know they have osteoporosis until they suffer a fracture. Based on global data, osteoporosis-related hip fractures are associated with high morbidity and a mortality rate of up to 20 per cent in the first year, with only 25per cent resuming normal activities while the majority are disabled.
The increase in total number of hip fractures is also expected to be highest in Malaysia within the Asian region by 2050. These statistics highlight the importance of early detection in osteoporosis, thus being able to slow the progression of the disease if you have it or prevent it if you are likely to develop it.
Furthermore, the increasing proportion of older persons in Malaysia’s ageing population underscores the need for urgent action to tackle the projected burden of osteoporosis. Dr Lee Joon Kiong, who is President of FFNM, said that it is necessary to educate the public, especially among the older persons, that osteoporosis related fractures are major health problems.
“When an older person has a fall and suffers a fracture, surgery can be fatal due to their age and other health complications that arise. Bone fractures, particularly in the spine or hip, are the most serious complications of osteoporosis. This is made worse with existing health conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes, or side effects of surgery recovery due to prolonged bedrest,” he explained.
Important To Maintain Continuity On Bone Care And Treatment
Professor Dr Chan Siew Pheng, who is President of MOS, emphasised the critical need for osteoporosis patients and high-risk groups to stay fracture-free amidst the urge by the government to stay at home to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection. “Continuity on bone care and treatment, especially among the Older Persons, is important even though visits to hospitals and clinics are minimised. Patients or their caregivers can consult their doctors on the prevention and treatment options available,” she said.
Reducing the risk of falls at home is possible and is one of the many lifestyle measures that can make a positive difference in improving or maintaining bone health. For example, one can install grab bars and extra lighting at home and ensuring the floor is clutter-free will help to minimise the risk of falls.
Patients and caregivers can also consider the Fracture Liaison Service (FLS) — a multidisciplinary system approach to reducing subsequent fracture risk in patients with a recent fragility fracture. The FLS will ensure all patients presenting with fragility fractures to the locality or institution receive fracture risk assessment and treatment where appropriate. The service will be comprised of a dedicated case worker, often a clinical nurse specialist, who works to pre-agreed protocols to case-find and assess fracture patients.
Proactive Healthy Lifestyle Can Promote Good Bone Health And Prevent Osteoporosis
Treating osteoporosis in its earliest stages is the best way to prevent some of the more serious consequences. Unfortunately, the pain and disability of osteoporosis is often ignored or misdiagnosed due to the general misconception that osteoporosis is part of a natural ageing process, untreatable, and unpreventable.
“The reality is that bone health checks are not part of the standard health routine, and many people are unaware that consuming calcium-rich drinks and supplements are not enough,” explained Choo Yem Kuen, President of OASKLS.
“There is also a need to practice resistance exercises and get sunlight for natural Vitamin D that will help to strengthen bone health. Smokers also have a higher risk of osteoporosis. Those who drink are advised to monitor their alcohol intake, as it can impede how vitamin D is used in the body, rids magnesium at a higher rate, and affects hormone level that can result in reduced bone formation. Inebriation also increases the risk of fall.”
“Don’t be shy to speak to your doctor if you suspect you have osteoporosis. Learning about the symptoms and risk factors can help you take the right steps to keep your bones strong and maintain good bone health,” advised Choo.
Introducing The BHAM Facebook Page As A Digital Resource Centre And Community Engagement Tool
Social media is now the go-to channel for Malaysians in general, with 46 per cent of the 4.7 million Malaysian population above 55 years old on platforms like Facebook, and many older persons are also learning and turning to social media as a source of information or to learn new things. Harnessing the power of social media platforms, the Alliance have launched the Bone Health Alliance Malaysia Facebook Page.
The page aims to serve as a digital resource centre and community engagement tool, while realising the goal of promoting osteoporosis awareness and creating positive behavioural change in bone health management. Page followers can expect knowledge sharing on osteoporosis, fragility fractures, and bone health management tailored for Malaysians. The content serves to educate patients, caregivers, and the high-risk group, on how they can take care of their bone health and take the self-risk assessment to understand if they are at risk of osteoporosis.
There will also be a series of digital healthcare talks by medical experts on bone health related topics in the next few months. The Alliance will also be hosting a public digital survey on the Facebook page as well to understand the bone health awareness level and lifestyle habits related to preserving bone health among Malaysians.
Follow the Bone Health Alliance Malaysia Facebook page for more information. Stay tuned for updates on the digital healthcare talks at www.facebook.com/BoneHealthAllianceMY.