8 simple tips to keep your bones healthy
There are 206 bones in an adult human body. They give our bodies structure, protect vital organs and without them, we’d be in a bit of trouble! But to do their job, we have to do ours and take care of them. The good news is, it’s never too late.
From the age of 30 onwards, our bones gradually lose their density as a natural part of ageing, so it’s important to keep them as healthy as possible to avoid conditions such as osteoporosis. This is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break (fracture). There are no symptoms so the first clue may be that you fracture a bone.
Whether you have osteoporosis or just want to build strong bones for the future, there are several things you can do to help.
Eat calcium-rich foods
Calcium is important for supporting strong bones. Most people need at least 3 serves of calcium rich food a day. A serving size is a glass of milk (250ml), tub of yoghurt (200g) or a slice of cheese (40g). If you can’t get the recommended amount of calcium from your diet, speak to your doctor about alternatives.
Get a bit of vitamin D
Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium. It’s found in oily fish, liver, fortified spreads and cereals, and egg yolks. Your body also makes its own vitamin D when you're exposed to sunshine – but you only need a few minutes a day during summer and a couple of hours spread over a week during winter.
Eat a balanced diet
Keep your diet balanced. Your meals should contain protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds), fresh fruit and vegetables, and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice).
The more you smoke, the more likely you'll get osteoporosis. Aim to cut down or, better still, quit smoking altogether. A great place to start is to check out the Department of Health website or call the Quitline on 13 7848.
Watch how much salt you eat
Salt is thought to speed up the body's loss of calcium. So, try to limit your daily salt intake to the recommended amount. Australian adults are recommended to consume is less 2000mg of sodium a day — that’s less than a teaspoon of salt.
Bones get stronger when you use them. A great way to strengthen them is with weight-bearing exercise. This includes exercise such as walking, running, dancing, golf, or tennis.
Bones also benefit if you lift and carry things. Weight training is ideal, but carrying shopping, gardening, and housework all count. If you are new to exercise it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before you take up any new exercise activity, to make sure it's right for you.
Alcohol, tea, coffee, cola, and other soft drinks reduce the amount of calcium you absorb and weaken bones. Stick to the recommended amounts of alcohol and swap your caffeine-fuelled drinks for water.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being underweight is a risk factor for osteoporosis. It can affect the amount of oestrogen (a hormone that helps to protect your bones) in your body. If you need to lose weight, do it sensibly (and avoid crash diets).