Bone up on your bone health

Bone up on your bone health

Keeping our bones strong and healthy is essential for women of a certain age, says Patsy Westcott

Keeping our bones strong and healthy is essential for women of a certain age, says Patsy Westcott

I have become the incredible shrinking woman. In my twenties I was proud to stand tall at 5ft 6½. Don’t mock – it’s the same height as Twiggy.

These days, however, I’m a slightly less lofty 5ft 5½. And, though it doesn’t seem like much, I’m aware it’s a sign of the natural loss of height we all experience as we get older.

Why bone health matters

Our bones, which reach peak mass and strength at around age 30, are continually being broken down and built up. And it’s perfectly normal for the breakdown to outstrip the building process as we get older. But after menopause the drop in oestrogen levels accelerates this natural cycle, which is why it’s vital to look after our bones to help protect against osteoporosis – aka fragile bone disease – which happens when bones become thin, brittle and liable to break after a minor knock or fall.

One in two women (and one in five men) over the age of 50 experience fractures, mostly as a result of low bone strength, according to the National Osteoporosis Society. The good news is there are plenty of positive and fun ways to help strengthen our bones. You won’t be surprised to hear that the secret is exercise and diet…

Resistance is NOT futile

To be effective, any activity you choose should slightly jar the bones to encourage your body to manufacture more bone cells.

  • Resistance exercise, skipping, running, jogging, high-impact aerobics (where both feet leave the ground) and stampy or jumpy dances such as tap, flamenco, line dancing or Scottish country dancing and/or sports such as hockey, tennis or netball are all good choices provided your bones are strong.
  • If you’re unfit or not sure how strong your bones are, walking or a vibration plate – e.g. Power Plate – may be better options to start off with.
  • Add in some Tai Chi, yoga or Pilates to help build balance and help protect against falls.

NB: If you have already broken a bone or know or suspect you may have weak bones check with your doctor before embarking on an exercise programme.

Food matters

What you eat can help look after strong bones, too. Aim for a healthy balanced diet including the following:

Protein A good protein intake is essential for strong healthy bones. As a simple rule of thumb, be sure to include some protein (meat, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts) in every meal.

Fruit and veg These are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals needed for strong, healthy bones.

Calcium The main mineral in bone. Find it in foods such as milk and yoghurt where it comes packaged with other important nutrients, including vitamin D, protein, potassium, and magnesium, which are needed for healthy bones.

Vitamin D Manufactured in skin on exposure to sunlight in summer and found in some foods, vitamin D enhances bone formation and calcium absorption. Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods like spreads and some breakfast cereals are all sources. Get some sunshine during the summer – not too much – and consider taking a vitamin D supplement all year round.

Say no to…

Processed foods And don’t add extra salt because postmenopausal women with a high salt intake are more at risk of osteoporosis.

Smoking This triggers a flood of rogue molecules that attack bone-building cells. When post-menopausal it’s even worse as bone loss is accelerated.

Soft drinks and fizzy drinks These may contain high levels of phosphate, which can lead to a cumulative loss of calcium.

Worried about your bones?

Your GP can assess your bone health using an online programme that helps predict your risk of fracture.

If you are at risk you may be referred for a DEXA (DXA) bone density scan that can detect osteoporosis or osteopenia (the forerunner of osteoporosis).

A new osteoporosis home testing kit, Osentia, is now available. You send a nail clipping to a lab to be analysed for changes in nail structure, which correlate with risk of osteoporosis. Visit osentia.co.uk to find out more.

Helpful contacts

If you have concerns about your bones, contact the National Osteoporosis Society by visiting nos.org.uk, or call the free helpline 0808 800 0035 to speak to a specialist nurse.

How do you keep your bones strong and healthy? Let us know in the comments section below.

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food tips

Sufia 05/06/2017

smoked salmon is a rich little treat but really good for bones. I prefer to just grill it a little and have i so, but can also break up into a crunchy salad

Keep moving and keep warm

Hopegirl 27/05/2017

Regular exercise is essential for healthy bones and foods containing "warm" ingredients such as turmeric and ginger are good for joints. Did you know that skimmed milk has more calcium than semi or full fat?

My bones

Mrsp333 26/05/2017

It's to late my bones are brittle already it took them two years to tell me now I help my children and grandkds

Broth

Nat1983 26/05/2017

I love chicken broth for strong bones and immunity, this is my top tip.

Vitamin D

invictus 26/05/2017

Vitamin D rules as i suffer from M.S. and they seem to think there is a link with the lack of sunshine in our countries

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