The Truth About Healthy Bones
Poor bone health is a problem for 2 in 3 Australians older than 50 years. People of all ages can take steps to develop strong, healthy bones that will last a lifetime. Let’s look at some misconceptions about bone health, and find out the truth about healthy bones.
Misconception 1: Osteoporosis can’t be prevented.
Osteoporosis means that bones have become weak and brittle. If a person’s dietary intake is not enough to keep their body functioning, the body can borrow calcium and other minerals from the bones – which makes them more fragile and prone to breaking. Bone health can be influenced by genetics, but building strong bones early in life and maintaining good bone health habits later on goes a long way towards preventing osteoporosis.
Misconception 2: Osteoporosis is a women’s problem.
Because women have a rapid drop in oestrogen during menopause, they are more susceptible to osteoporosis. Men’s testosterone levels do drop off, but at a more gradual rate. However, by age 65, both genders lose bone mass at about the same rate. Osteoporosis affects 1 in 5 women over the age of 65 years, and 1 in 20 men – although the number of men is growing. Both men and women can benefit from good bone health.
Misconception 3: Bone health is only relevant to older people.
There are several advantages of considering bone health, even in children and young adults. Firstly, the habits that encourage strong bones are generally good for your whole body. Secondly, the teenage years build one-quarter of adult bone mass, and by the late twenties bones are at their peak mass. After this point, adults need to be careful to maintain good habits so they don’t lose that mass. Building healthy bones at a young age gives your older self a strong advantage later on.
Misconception 4: Maintaining strong bones is difficult.
There are 3 simple ways that you can ensure your bones stay healthy and strong. They are:
- Get enough calcium: In most Australian diets calcium comes from dairy products, but there are other sources such as supplements, fortified soy products and other foods. Discuss your calcium needs with a doctor or dietician to make sure your intake is adequate.
- Weight bearing exercise: it’s not only muscles that get stronger as you exercise – your bones get stronger too. Any exercise that offers some resistance is a good option for strengthening bones.
- Get vitamin D: Vitamin D is another essential building block for healthy bones, and the good news is that your body can make its own when given direct sunlight. But don’t throw your sun safety habits away – normally only a few minutes in the sun will do the trick. Talk to your doctor about how much sunlight you need to get your daily vitamin D.
While age, genetics and gender can’t be changed, your habits can. Healthy bones are worth the effort. Your GP is a great place to start looking for personalised information about what you can do to avoid osteoporosis and help your bones stay fighting fit, well into your later years.