Ahead of Healthy Bones Week (3-10 August), Jean Hailes for Women’s Health reminds women of the importance of looking after their bone health.
Peak bone mass is reached around the time of 25-30 years of age – and for women, around the time of menopause, there is a rapid decline in bone mass.
Around 1 million Australians are affected by osteoporosis and a further 6 million have osteopenia, a condition that puts them at greater risk of fracture or broken bones in the future.
But experts say there is a lot that can be done to maintain bone health throughout your life. Experts in the field agree that the three keys to bone health are:
- consuming enough calcium in your daily diet
- getting enough vitamin D, and
- regular weight-bearing exercise
“By focusing on these three areas you give your bones the best chance of staying strong,” says Jean Hailes endocrinologist Dr Sonia Davison. “Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium, and the main source is safe exposure to sunlight. Get outside regularly to combine your intake of vitamin D and exercise your body by walking, jogging, dancing or another weight-bearing activity.”
“In regards to calcium, dairy products are a good source, but alternative calcium-rich foods include broccoli, beans, almonds, tinned salmon and sardines, “says Dr Davison.
Dr Davison adds that while recent studies have questioned the safety and effectiveness of calcium supplementation with regard to bone health and fracture prevention, the emphasis has turned toward having a diet that has adequate calcium content.
“In adult women this is thought to be between 1,000-1,300mg daily,” she says. “A useful way to find out how much calcium you are consuming is to look at the calcium content of foods for a typical day’s diet. This can easily be explored using freely available tables online that look at common foods and estimate their calcium content per quantity of food.”
“It’s only where you are not getting enough calcium within your diet that calcium supplements may be needed to aid bone health,” says Dr Davison.