It's never too late to start looking after your bones
Once you get into your thirties you start to lose more bone mass than you gain, so you need to take measures to build up bone density and strength.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, a tenth of women aged 60 are affected by osteoporosis, and this rises to two-thirds of women aged 90.
Here’s 10 steps to protecting your bones..
1. Bursts of exercise
Don’t worry if you’re not into a long workouts. The latest studies from the Universities of Exeter and Leicester say that women who do just one or two minutes of high-intensity weight-bearing exercise a day have a four per cent better bone density than those who do less than a minute.
Women who lift weights and perform some type of high intensity exercise such as aerobics, weight-lifting, skipping and football, have been found to have up to 15 per cent higher bone density than those who do resistance training with moderate exercise. So push yourself in short bursts.
2. Sunbathe without sunscreen
Yes, that’s right - although we're certainly not suggesting you do this for long periods of time which could expose you to sun damage - just for a short period each day. You need to expose your skin to sunlight for your body to make vitamin D which helps you absorb calcium, which is an important nutrient for bones. Doctors recommend exposing large areas of your body, like your arms and legs, for at least 20 minutes a day.
3. Eat a calcium-rich diet
Good sources of vitamin D are eggs, oily fish like salmon and nuts.
Calcium-rich foods include low-fat dairy milk, cheese, yoghurt as well as leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, and bony fish like sardines and canned tuna in water.
You may want to boost your intake in the winter months with fortified food like cereals, or a supplement. Choose vitamin D3 rather than vitamin D2, for a daily dose of 10mcg.
4. Up your magnesium
Around 60 per cent of the magnesium in your body is stored in your bones. And research suggests if you’re lacking in this mineral it could lead to brittle bones and loss of density. However, most dieticians agree that most of us don’t eat enough magnesium-rich foods.
Whole foods are always best, as magnesium can be lost during refinement and processing. Ensure your diet includes, green, leafy vegetables, such spinach, nuts, brown rice, fish, meat, dairy and wholegrain bread.
5. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Your risk of osteoporosis increases as a woman after menopause, as drops in the levels of the hormone oestrogen, causes your bones to be drained of calcium. Signing yourself up for HRT can help protect against this. At Twenty-five Harley Street, Miss Tania Adib is a consultant gynaecologist and expert in helping patients through the menopause.
6. Get a bone density scan
The quickest way to find out if you’re prone to osteoporosis is by asking your doctor for a DEXA scan for your bones. This screening for women can alert you to the risk of thinning bones that could become osteoporosis later in life.
DEXA scans (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) are safe and quick scans that can be used to give a detailed assessment of bone health and the diagnosis of osteoporosis. Afterwards you receive a report with suggests to safeguard the future health of your bones.
Lead DEXA expert, Professor David Reid at 25 Harley Street says: “After the first vertebral fracture women (and probably men too), have a one in five chance of a second fracture within a year. Identifying people with, and at risk of, vertebral fractures is extremely important and it is now possible with the DEXA scanner.”
7. Stop smoking
You know that smoking is bad for your lungs but it’s also harmful to your bones too. The nicotine and free radicals within each cigarette have been shown to increase your risk of bone fractures. The good news is the majority of women who quit smoking in their 50s and 60s, show improved bone density within one year of kicking the habit.
8. Review your medication
It’s always a good idea to frequently review any medications you’re taking, and this goes for bone health too. As certain prescription drugs can weaken bones. So it’s worth asking your GP if you can switch to an alternative.
These include some anti-depressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), steroids for asthma, and proton pump inhibitors for digestive conditions.
For a same day appointment with a private GP Twenty-five Harley Street offers a 24/7 service – with appointments available at the clinic from 8.30am until 8pm at night. You don’t have to be registered at the clinic, just phone for an appointment on 020 3883 9525, or email [email protected] .
9. Cutback on coffee
Studies show that women who drink too much caffeine—either in coffee, caffeinated teas, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate are actually more prone to hip fractures as they get older. Nutritionists recommend sticking to no more than two cups of coffee a day.
10. Eat good fats
If you’re already including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet to boost heart health, then you’re on to a good thing, as these good fats also support good bone strength too. Ensure you include eggs, spinach, fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. Greek women who consume a traditional Mediterranean diet (high in extra-virgin olive oil, beans, legumes, fish, and minimal red meat) boast the strongest bone density in the world.