What is Bone health all about?
Osteoporosis affects around 1.2 million Australians, with a further 6 million suffering from low bone density. These people are at risk of a fracture. Most people don’t know they are at risk until a break occurs and so it is frequently called ‘the silent disease’.
These injuries frequently occur in the hip, wrist and spine but any bone can be affected. Each break increases the risk of future fractures dramatically, so prevention and early detection is key.
Do you want a simple three step plan to healthy bones?
Dairy Australia has labelled August 17-23 “Healthy Bones Action Week” to encourage Australians to be proactive in combating low bone density.
There are three simple steps anyone can follow to help improve bone health:
- increase your calcium intake
- improve your vitamin D levels
- get some weight bearing exercise.
Calcium is essential for bone health, with low calcium intake leading to low bone density.
We all know that dairy based foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are calcium rich (even the low fat and lactose-free versions), but what about people who don’t eat dairy? Non-dairy, plant-based sources of calcium include tofu, chickpeas, almonds and even broccoli. A handy list of calcium sources may be found here.
Vitamin D helps use the calcium to build better bones.
Vitamin D is vital in keeping bones healthy as it helps our bodies absorb the calcium we eat. As well as contributing to osteoporosis, low vitamin D levels can lead to bone and joint pain as well as other, more serious conditions. Vitamin D deficiency is also relatively common in Australia, with up to 30% of adults being deficient.
Fortunately for most people there is a simple way to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D: spend some time in the sunshine. Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to UV light, with only a few minutes each day required to maintain healthy levels. Any longer can lead to skin damage so remember to Slip Slop Slap if spending long periods in the sun.
Certain groups are more likely to have low vitamin D. These include elderly or housebound people, those with darker skin (lighter skin absorbs more UV), those who cover their bodies for religious or cultural reasons and the babies of vitamin D deficient mothers.
If you’re concerned about your vitamin D levels, or belong to any of the at-risk groups, you should talk to your GP and they can advise on possible treatments.
Stressing bones makes them stronger.
The last step to healthy bones is exercise.
COVID-19 has left most of us spending long periods sat in front of the computer or TV, which could increase our risk. Low activity levels can lead to a loss of bone density, so it’s important to exercise regularly (ideally every day if possible).
Download an useful information pack below:
Am I at risk?
Not all exercise is created equal when it comes to preventing osteoporosis. Certain activities such as cycling or swimming have very little effect on bone strength despite being beneficial for overall health. Walking, running and tennis are all examples of good bone strengthening exercises, as is lifting weights in the gym.
Even if you follow all these steps, you may find you’re still at risk of osteoporosis. Risk factors include a family history of the disease, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and even certain medications. For more information visit our osteoporosis and bone health page.
If you belong to any of these at risk groups, or even if you’re simply concerned about the health of your bones, book an appointment now to speak to one of the doctors at Reydon Street Medical Centre.