Did you know that more than ‘sticks and stones can break your bones?’ As we age our bodies slow down and our bones become increasingly fragile, especially in post-menopausal women. “During menopause, levels of progesterone and oestrogen fall” explains nutritional therapist Alison Cullen. “It is known that low oestrogen can be a factor in the gradual weakening of bones, making them more fragile and susceptible to fracture.”
Statistics show that every two minutes, osteoporosis is causing a fracture but it's not just women, osteoporosis affects 1 in 5 men over the age of 50.
There are some treatments now available for osteoporosis, but prevention is the only real cure and it's never too late to start. Osteoporosis doesn't just mean discomfort in the event of a broken bone; it can affect your whole way of life. Statistics from the National Osteoporosis Society show that only half the number of people who have hip fractures return to living a normal independent life.
The importance of calcium
Calcium is a mineral that is essential for building and maintaining strong bones. It also helps muscles contract, the heart beat, nerves to function, and blood to clot. People who are 19-50 years old need 1000 mg of calcium/day but as we age this dosage should increase with people who are 51 and older needing 1200 mg of calcium/day.
What to eat
The best sources of calcium are from dairy products such as low-fat yogurt, semi-skimmed milk and cheese. However, if dairy isn’t an option, then alternative products containing soy such as tofu are also a great way to keep those calcium levels up, as are dark green leafy vegetables, almonds and sesame seeds. In addition to diet, supplements such as Oesto Complete from Healthspan, also contains high levels of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3 and zinc.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in controlling blood calcium levels and the strengthening of bones. As well as the sun, certain foods such as sunflower seeds, fish and fish oils – particularly canned salmon or sardines are rich in the essential vitamin D. During the summer, and just three times a week, spending 10-15 minutes with the sun on your hands and face should provide enough vitamin D to last through the winter; even us Brits can get our annual dose!
Magnesium is important for the maintenance of healthy bones, it’s necessary for proper absorption of calcium. Dietary sources of magnesium include almonds, cashews, peanuts, brown rice, kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils.
Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen and for fracture healing. It’s a bit like glue for all our tissues. Fresh fruit and berries are good sources, but also watercress, peppers and sweet potatoes. Supplements such as Nature-C by A. Vogel are rich in naturally occurring vitamin C made from extracts of a wide range of fruits and are an easy to way to maintain a healthy dietary balance.
Maintaining Strong Bones
Weight-bearing physical activity is recommended for maintaining strong bones. These types of exercises are those in which feet and legs are bearing the weight and result in building bone and muscle strength. Activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, tennis, yoga and Pilates will build core strength, are very sociable ways to exercise and can be easily incorporated into a daily routine.
What to avoid
Research has found that cigarette smoking, excessive use of alcohol and coffee have a negative effect on calcium absorption and bone health. Drinking two or more cups of coffee a day is linked with decreased bone density whilst extreme amounts of coffee (10-20 cups a day) can be linked to actual fractures.
When to visit the GP
The only way to diagnose osteoporosis is through a Bone Mineral Density test which measures the density of your bones. Osteoporosis is known to be a "silent killer" because the thinning of your bones can progress silently until one of them breaks. This test will help determine whether you need medication to help maintain your bone mass, as prevention of a fracture.
It’s never too early and it’s never too late. You can prevent osteoporosis.
If you need advice about osteoporosis visit the National Osteoporosis Society at http://www.nos.org.uk/Last modified: June 10, 2021