Bone Health: Why does it matter

Our bones support us and allow us to move. They protect our brain, heart, and other organs from injury. Our bones also store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous, which help keep our bones strong, and release them into the body when we need them for other uses.

There are many things we can do to keep our bones healthy and strong.

 

Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, getting plenty of exercise, and having good health habits help keep our bones healthy.

But if we don’t eat right and don’t get enough of the right kinds of exercise, our bones can become weak and even break. Broken bones (called fractures) can be painful and sometimes need surgery to heal. They can also cause long-lasting health problems.

But the good news is that it is never too late to take care of your bone.

It is never too early or too late to take care of your bones. The following steps can help you improve your bone health:

Eat a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products and foods and drinks with added calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and milk with vitamin D. Some people may need to take nutritional supplements in order to get enough calcium and vitamin D. The charts below show how much calcium and vitamin D you need each day. Fruits and vegetables also contribute other nutrients that are important for bone health.

 

Sources of Calcium

Tofu (calcium fortified)

Soy milk (calcium fortified)

Green leafy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale)

Chinese cabbage or bok choy

Beans/legumes

Tortillas

Sardines/salmon with edible bones

Shrimp

Orange juice (calcium fortified)

Pizza

Bread

Nuts/almonds

Dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese, yogurt)

 

 

Get plenty of physical activity. Like muscles, bones become stronger with exercise. The best exercises for healthy bones are strength-building and weight-bearing, like walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights, and dancing. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Live a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke and, if you choose to drink alcohol, don’t drink too much.

Talk to your doctor about your bone health. Go over your risk factors with your doctor and ask if you should get a bone density test. If you need it, your doctor can order medicine to help prevent bone loss and reduce your chances of breaking a bone.

Prevent falls. Falling down can cause a bone to break, especially in someone with osteoporosis. But most falls can be prevented. Check your home for dangers like loose rugs and poor lighting. Have your vision checked. Increase your balance and strength by walking every day and taking classes like Tai Chi, yoga, 

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture.

The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are wrist and hip fractures or fractures of the spinal bones ( vertebrae).

However, they can also occur in other bones, such as in the arm or pelvis. Sometimes a cough or sneeze can cause a rib fracture or the partial collapse of one of the bones of the spine.

Osteoporosis isn't usually painful until a fracture occurs, but spinal fractures are a common cause of long-term pain.

Although a fracture is the first sign of osteoporosis, some older people develop the characteristic stooped (bent forward) posture. It happens when the bones in the spine have fractured, making it difficult to support the weight of the body.

Who's affected?

Osteoporosis affects over three million people in the UK.

More than 500,000 people receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures every year as a result of osteoporosis.

Causes of osteoporosis

Losing bone is a normal part of the ageing process, but some people lose bone density much faster than normal. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.

Women also lose bone rapidly in the first few years after the menopause. Women are more at risk of osteoporosis than men, particularly if the menopause begins early (before the age of 45).

Many other factors can also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, including:

  • long-term use of high-dose oral corticosteroids

  • other medical conditions – such as inflammatory conditions,

  • hormone-related conditions, or malabsorption problems

  • a family history of osteoporosis – particularly history of a hip fracture in a parent

  • long-term use of certain medications which can affect bone strength or hormone levels

  • having a low body mass index (BMI)

 

Will I Need to Take Medicine for My Bones?

 

There are medicines to help prevent and treat osteoporosis. Your doctor may want you to take medicine if your bone density test shows that your bones are weak and that you have a good chance of breaking a bone in the future. Your doctor is more likely to order medicine if you have other health concerns that increase your risk for breaking a bone, such as a tendency to fall or a low body weight.

Information supplied by National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and NHS choices

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