Bone Health

Information from the bone health report

The need for people to maintain healthy bones into old age is vitally important to preserve their quality of life. The time to act on this is now! (Professor Phillip Sambrook – Rheumatologist and Medical Director of Osteoporosis Australia.

The consequences of poor bone health are severe and affect one in every two women and one in every three men who live into their sixties. However, most Australians don’t think about their bones while they are young and fit so they are not doing everything they can to look after their bones.

The purpose of this bone health report which was put together by Osteoporosis Australia is to highlight the need for immediate action to prevent what is being termed the “silent epidemic” of osteoporosis.

KEY AUSTRALIAN BONE FACTS

Bones can begin to break down after the age of 25 – Keeping our bones in the best shape possible is vital to helping us all continue to live the life we love. Our bones can start to lose strength after the age of 25 years – there are a number of simple yet important things we can all do to help preserve the quality of our bones throughout our adult life. Bones are living tissue. They are continually breaking down and rebuilding throughout life as part of the natural process of bone remodeling. After the age of 25 once

Peak Bone Mass is reached bones can begin to breakdown faster than they are rebuilt. As this continues, the honeycomb like structure becomes thinner, more brittle and disconnected. Over time, the entire structure of the bone starts to erode.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF POOR BONE HEALTH

Osteoporosis is a disease which can cause the bone to lose its density and strength and become prone to breaking.This condition is a lot more common in Australia than many people would think- affecting one in two women and one in three men over 60 years of age. Sadly, osteoporosis has no obvious symptoms until a bone is broken and as such is referred to as the ‘silent thief’.

As many as 4 out of 5 people don’t know they have illness until they break a bone. More facts about this serious disease can be found on the Osteoporosis Australia website at www.osteoporosis.org.au

THE PROBLEM IS INCREASING

One of the main reason that rates of poor bone health are projected to increase substantially in the next five to fifteen years is the ageing population. Over the next ten years more women than every before will enter menopause.

This is significant because at menopause there is a reduction in the level of hormones which have been helping to preserve bone health throughout adult life. With this, there is a corresponding dramatic and irreversible loss in bone mass. That fact that both men and women are living longer contributes to this problem even further.

WHY AREN’T WOMEN LOOKING AFTER THEIR BONES?

Important, but doing nothing about it;
Less than 50 percent of women in Australia think bone health is very important, and most women are not taking any specific action to look after their bone health now. In Australia 49% of women in a recent survey said they did “nothing in particular”, or “nothing except regular exercise” to look after their bones at present. This is in comparison with 58% of women ranking the issue of “weight control” as highly important, with 62% saying they have tried to lose weight in the last six months.
So what is so important?
As Australian women reach their 40’s, they look forward to a time of adventure, self expression and self-fulfillment. There is a strong desire to maintain general health by eating well and being active, though less interest in specific illnesses. Many women in their 40’s and 50’s think that their bone health isn’t something they need to worry about until they are at least 60, and that if they had compromised bone health before then they would be able to tell.

There is also a common belief that as long as they feel fit and well, and eat some dairy products, that will be enough to help keep bones.This is not the case, which highlights an important knowledge gap that needs to be addressed.

WHAT CAN I DO?

You need to provide your body with the right balance of exercise, bone nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to help achieve optimal bone maintenance and reduce the rate of bone breakdown.

Even if we grew up with a diet rich in dairy, it’s vital that we feed our bones the right nutrients at the right levels, during adulthood to help us maintain bone strength.

Bones need more calcium
Bones need the following essential nutrients every day;

PROTEIN Needed for the matrix of bone, onto which other nutrients are laid down. It’s also needed for hormonal regulation of bone remodeling.

CALCIUM 99% of the calcium in our body is stored in our bones and teeth, helping to give bones rigidity.

VITAMIN D Helps our body to absorb calcium from food, and helps to regulate the complex bone remodeling process

MAGNESIUM 50% of the magnesium in our body is in our bones and is one of the minerals responsible for bone rigidity

ZINC Helps to lay down essential minerals into bone resulting in rigidity.

All of these nutrients work together in different ways to ensure the bone remodeling cycle remains efficient, helping to maintain as much bone as possible. This is especially important after the age of 25 when bones can begin to break down.

DIETARY AND LIFESTYLE OPTIONS

The following are relevant to us all but especially to women over the age of 25 years.

A health, balanced diet
Because diary products naturally contain many nutrients essential for bones, is its important to include these as part of a healthy well balanced diet. The Australian Guide to Healthy eating recommends two to three servings of milk, yoghurt or cheese or alternatives each day for women and two to four serves for men.

As part of a healthy balanced diet, it is also important for the health of your bones to limit consumption of alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated beverages. These all increase the turnover of calcium in the body by causing more to be lost in the urine. In the case of coffee, this effect can be minimized by consuming coffee containing generous amounts of milk, to replace the calcium lost as an effect of the caffeine.

Maintain a healthy body weight
Eating sensibly is also an important way to help maintain a healthy body weight. People who are under weight are less likely to have strong bones than people of healthy body weight. In women, who do not have regular menstrual periods due to being underweight this is also a very bad sign for bones.

The same hormones which regulate the menstrual cycle also help to preserve bones – that’s why there is an inevitable loss of bone at menopause.

Quit smoking – It goes unsaid; this is one of the best things you can do for your bone health and your general health.

Exercise regularly but not excessively
Regular and moderate weight bearing exercise (i.e., walking, running stair climbing, lifting weights) helps to reduce the rate of bone loss. Therefore you should aim for 30 minutes of weight bearing activity on most days.

It is important to note that weight bearing exercise does not include activities such as swimming and cycling although these types of exercise are beneficial for improving muscle tone and co-ordination which indirectly can help your bones by minimizing risk of falls. For some training and dietary ideas, download our ebook.