Bones play many roles in the body from providing structure and anchoring muscles to protecting internal organs and storing calcium.
Bones are continually changing with old bone being broken down and new bone being made.
In children and younger people new bone is made faster than it breaks down. Peak bone mass is reached by about the age of 30 years. After that, bone remodelling occurs but bone tends to be lost as people get older. The more bone built up by the age of 30, the healthier and stronger bones are likely to be as life continues.
Several factors affect bone health including the amount of calcium in the diet, vitamin D levels, tobacco use and excessive alcohol, getting older, being a woman, ethnicity, family history and body frame size, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, gastrointestinal surgery and any conditions which affect calcium absorption and use of certain medications, particularly long term corticosteroids. Some anti-seizure medications, cancer treatments and acid-blocking drugs known as proton pump inhibitors can affect bone health.
Dr Catherine Hood from the Bone Health Information Panel shares her tips on how to maintain healthy bones.
Several steps can be taken to help maintain healthy bones:
- Include plenty of calcium in your diet. The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for calcium is 800mg daily. Dairy products are a highly bioavailable source of calcium. There is also Cal-in+, a new yogurt which is a rich source of calcium, containing 50% of the RDA. Calcium can also be found in dark green leafy vegetables, almonds and sardines.
- Pay attention to vitamin D. The RDA for vitamin D is 5 micrograms a day. Vitamin D is obtained from sunlight, but people in the UK may not get enough sun exposure. There are now fortified foods which contain vitamin D to help, such as Cal-in + which contains 100% of the RDA for vitamin D.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet including fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses dairy and lean meat and fish. A healthy diet provides essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc and copper which, like calcium and vitamin D, are essential for bone health.
- Protein is important for bone health. Both too little and too much can prejudice bone health. An average adult should attempt to eat around 61g of protein each day. Dairy products such as Cal-in+ yogurt provide protein.
- Consider soluble fibre such as oats, beans and lentils, fruit and vegetables. As these move through the intestine they produce organic acids which help the absorption of calcium.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Being either too low or too high in body weight can prejudice musculoskeletal health. Being underweight can cause fragile bones. Being overweight can cause joint problems.
- Daily exercise is important. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs, is important to build strong bones and slow bone loss.
- Avoid smoking. Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
- Be careful with alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium.
- If you are worried about your bone health or taking a medication that affects your bone health (eg, corticosteroids, proton pump inhibitor), talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest that your bone health is monitored and/or take a bone maintenance medication if needed.
Femalefirst Taryn Davies