Eat for Your Bones and Keeping Moving
Diet and exercise are important for maintaining general health but when it comes to your bones there are some very specific recommendations.
Firstly, what causes poor bone health?
Poor bone health and osteoporosis can result from a range of risk factors – some of these may be related to lifestyle, or specific medical conditions or even specific medications.
Any risk factors should be discussed with your GP.
Eating for your bones
Supporting healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis includes a focus on diet. Adding more calcium to your daily meals is easy. There are a wide range of food groups which contain calcium. By adding foods you enjoy to each meal or snack time you can boost your calcium intake and help support your bone health.
Food Types and calcium range (mg per serve)
- Dairy – milk, cheese, yogurt (50 – 305 mg per serve)
- Seafood – trout, snapper, mussels, oysters, prawns, canned sardines/salmon (35 – 300 mg per serve)
- Vegetables – Cucumber, kale, silverbeat, chinese cabbage, broccoli, rocket, watercress, bok choy, leeks 59 – 250 mg per serve
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, tahini paste (28 – 75 mg per serve)
- Fruits -orange, strawberries, figs, kiwi fruit, dates (16 – 95 mg per serve)
- Other foods – eggs, calcium-set tofu, canned chickpeas or soybeans (21 – 105 mg per serve)
- Meat – Pork chop, chicken (21 – 105 mg per serve)
For adults in general it is recommended you aim for 1,000 mg per day. This increases slightly for women over 50 years and men over 70 years. Menopause is a time of bone loss for women and an increased focus on calcium intake is important. Generally, as we age calcium absorption can decrease while calcium excretion can increase. So being aware of what your body needs to help support bone health should be part of your eating habits. Easy calcium boost tips: smoothie in morning, soups packed with calcium rich veggies, delicious dairy based dessert, seafood dinner, nuts & fruits for snack time.
Why is Vitamin D important?
Adequate vitamin D levels are needed to help absorb calcium from the diet. People with vitamin D deficiency may require a supplement to correct their vitamin D levels. This will be checked by a doctor for people at risk of vitamin D deficiency. For the general population limited sun exposure is encouraged to help support vitamin D needs.
Moving your bones
Staying active as we age has many health benefits and that includes your bone health. It is never too late to start exercising. But it is important to understand the types of exercise that are best for bones:
Balance exercises are important for staying mobile and reducing falls, especially in older Australians
Using hand and ankle weights and gym equipment and this training should progress in intensity over time.
Exercise done on your feet so you bear your own weight which jolts bones rapidly and firmly. For example: jogging, skipping, tennis, dancing, impact aerobics, and stair walking.
For people with diagnosed osteoporosis a supervised exercise program is recommended. An exercise physiologist or physiotherapist can create an individual program combining all of these exercises to help support and improve bone strength. It is important exercise is regular and increases in intensity over time to achieve the best outcomes. A tailored program can also take into account any other health conditions or physical restrictions (such as a frozen shoulder, sport injury or arthritis) to ensure the program is practical and achievable.
Have you broken a bone recently?
Healthy Bones Australia encourages anyone over 50 years who breaks a bone from a minor fall or incident to speak to their doctor about their bone health. Investigation with a bone density test may be required. Fractures form a minor fall can often be dismissed as bad luck when in fact underlying osteoporosis may be the cause. Data from the Australian and New Zealand Hip Fracture Registry has shown nearly half of all people who had a hip fracture had sustained a previous fracture. Fractures from osteoporosis can occur at different sites for example the wrist, arm, leg, ribs and spine. Early diagnosis and treatment can protect your bones against future fractures.