Osteoporosis is shockingly common amongst women these days. One in three women will suffer an osteoporotic fracture at some stage. Here are some things to consider to help keep your bones stronger for longer, whatever your age.
1. In your twenties
- All adults should aim to get 700mg of calcium a day (two or three servings of dairy products, such as a 200ml glass of milk, a 25g piece of hard cheese and a tub of yoghurt).
- Avoid salty convenience foods and fizzy drinks containing phosphoric acid – it leaches calcium from bones.
- Those getting less than six hours of sleep each night are more likely to develop osteoporosis in later life, because the body is not given adequate time to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in the bloodstream, which promotes bone breakdown.
2. In your thirties
- Breakdown of bone tissue overtakes growth, leading to a steady loss of density from this decade onwards. High stress levels and inactivity can increase this deterioration.
- Limit your coffee intake to five cups a day, as excessive caffeine intake has been shown to compromise bone density. And make bone-healthy food choices. For instance, a tinned-salmon sandwich and a yoghurt boosts bone-densifying minerals.
- Pregnant women should take a decent supplement because the growing baby can deplete calcium stores. Take up exercise that increases bone-density retention, such as jogging.
3. In your forties
- Osteoarthritis, or wear and tear of the joints, which affects millions of men and women, can start at this age, but is preventable. ‘Maintaining a healthy weight will help prevent future problems. A 5 kg weight gain can increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees by 40%,’ says rheumatologist, Dr Gerard Hall. Consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
4. In your fifties
- Menopause causes a drop in oestrogen, which is essential for bone retention. Consider hormone replacement therapy to protect your bones.
- Eat more pulses and soy – both contain a chemical that mimics oestrogen and may protect against joint and back pains.
- Watch your alcohol intake. ‘Drinking more than three units of alcohol a day – two small glasses of wine – can cause low bone density, as the toxins in alcohol upset oestrogen and cortisol levels,’ warns Dr Hall.
5. In your sixties
- The body’s ability to absorb minerals deteriorates by up to 25%. Increase calcium intake to 1 300mg if you’re over 65, says the World Health Organisation.
- As well as dairy products, eat leafy green vegetables, bread, fortified cereals, orange juice and fish.
- Eat good-quality protein because it helps tissue growth and repair, and keep using your muscles and bones to maintain them.