Our bones aren’t usually something we think about taking care of until we break one or we start getting older. But did you know there’s a lot you can do right now to keep your bones healthy to avoid problems – especially later in life?
Your bones grow a lot in the early part of your life then from about your mid-30s onwards you begin to lose bone density. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you keep your bones as healthy as possible throughout your whole life.
As you age, you want to avoid osteoporosis – a condition where your bones become thin and brittle and break easily. The trouble is you don’t know you have it until you break a bone. Surprisingly, it can strike young people of both genders, but it’s most common in women over 50 years of age.
So, here’s our top five tips to keep your bones healthy:
1. Get enough calcium
Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. The best sources of calcium are low-fat milk and milk products like cheese and yoghurt. But calcium is also found in other food such as green leafy vegetables, tofu, salmon with bones, almonds and sardines.
Calcium supplements are available, but should only be taken after consulting with your doctor.
2. Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. We get most of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. However, remember the longer you spend in the sun, the greater your risk of skin cancer, so it’s all about getting the right balance. For more information, see our page on sensible sun exposure.
You can also get vitamin D from egg yolks, oily fish, cheese and fortified milk. Vitamin D supplements are available, but should only be taken after consulting with your doctor.
3. Exercise – especially weight-bearing exercise
Regular exercise, which is essential for general well-being, helps prevent and treat osteoporosis. Bones become stronger when they are active, just like muscles. Weight-bearing exercises such as running, dancing, tennis and walking are particularly good for your bones.
Being underweight or overweight are risk factors for osteoporosis, so maintaining a healthy weight is important.
4. Don’t smoke and go easy on the drinks
We all know smoking is bad for our health and that includes our bones. Studies have shown that smoking can prevent your body from absorbing calcium and lower your bone mass.
Similarly, too much alcohol is bad for your general health and your bones.
5. Injury prevention
As you age, injuries take longer to heal so it’s better to avoid them in the first place if possible. Removing hazards around the house like things lying on the floor can help prevent nasty falls and fractures.
Always holding on to handrails when using stairs, wearing sensible shoes, having good lighting and installing handrails in the shower or bath can all help prevent accidents and broken bones.
If you have any questions or concerns about your bone health, please talk to your GP. Bone density scans, which test the strength of your bones, are available. This can help in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis.