OSTEOPOROSIS cases in Singapore are set to rise dramatically as the population ages over the next 40 years, making the disease one of the top chronic illnesses here.
Osteoporosis is a disease of bones that leads to an increased risk of fracture. Hip fractures – the main gauge of the illness’ prevalence – are expected to affect 9,000 individuals each year by 2050, from around 1,300 recorded in 1998.
This indicates an urgent need to boost awareness of the disease and educate the public on the steps they can take to prevent it, health experts said yesterday at the opening of the International Osteoporosis Foundation’s (IOF) office for the Asia-Pacific region.
The president of the nonprofit organisation, Professor John Kanis, said Singapore was chosen as its regional base because of the country’s well-developed health-care services and infrastructure.
The high projected rate of hip fractures in Singapore by 2050 reflects a larger trend unfolding in Asia.
Citing official figures on the prevalence of osteoporosis in South-east Asia, Prof Kanis estimated that 1.5 million hip fractures were suffered in 2000.
The 2050 toll could reach eight million, he added, and “half of the world’s hip fractures due to osteoporosis will occur in the region by 2050”.
The elderly are particularly prone to osteoporosis because bone density decreases with age, raising the risk of fractures.
In Singapore, incidence of the disease has already surged five-fold among women and 1.5 times among men.
Dr Manju Chandran, vicepresident of the Endocrine and Metabolic Society of Singapore, said: “The economic impact of this silver-haired tsunami (on Singapore) will be huge. By 2050, the total cost will come up to about US$83 million (S$113 million), and this excludes indirect costs such as the loss from days not worked and caregiver costs.”
Senior Minister S. Jayakumar, the event’s guest of honour, called on Singaporeans to take preventive steps.
Experts say that regular exercise can slow down the loss of bone density and a high-calcium diet can prevent it.
Said Prof Jayakumar: “All individuals should take personal responsibility for their lifestyle choices by eating properly, not smoking, not consuming alcohol excessively and also by doing more exercise.”
Many people mistakenly believe that osteoporosis is a natural part of ageing, and think that there is no way to treat the illness.
“Treatments are available, even if fragility fractures have occurred,” said Dr Chionh Siok Bee, vice-president of the Osteoporosis Society of Singapore.
“Most of the time, patients don’t seek treatment because they believe it is not important enough, and there is insufficient support from their families to take them for treatment. Patients must realise they can get better
and lead happy, active lives.”
IOF will hold its first Asia-Pacific Osteoporosis meeting from Dec 10 to 13 at the Raffles City Convention Centre. The event is expected to draw up to 1,000 health professionals.