Bone health: five ways to boost bone strength

Strong, healthy bones are a vital part of good health. When bones become less dense and lose strength, this can lead to a condition known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis means that your bones lose calcium and become more fragile and are likely to fracture or break. A person with osteoporosis usually won’t have any symptoms until a fracture occurs.1 This makes looking after your bones especially important. Here are five tips to help you boost bone strength and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

1. Do some exercise

Exercise is a great way to build or maintain bone strength. Weight bearing exercises, such as running, tennis, high‐impact aerobics and dancing are particularly good for building strong bones. If you are at risk of breaking a bone, choose low impact exercises such as walking, or using a stepping machine or elliptical trainer at the gym. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.2

2. Get some sun

When we expose our skin to sunlight, it produces vitamin D. Although the amount of sunlight required to produce enough vitamin D is quite low, many Australians have insufficient vitamin D levels, especially in winter. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, as it assists calcium absorption, regulates calcium levels in the blood and supports bone growth.3

3. Limit your sugar and caffeine intake

For healthy bones that are dense and strong, try to limit your sugar and caffeine intake as much as possible. Caffeine is found in many drinks, including coffee, tea and many sodas, and causes the breakdown of bone tissue. High blood sugar levels can disrupt the hormones that are responsible for regulating bone density and therefore sugary foods should also be avoided.4

4. Eat calcium rich foods and plenty of green vegetables

Several minerals and vitamins play an essential role in assisting bone health, including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3, boron, manganese and vitamin K. Perhaps the most important of these is calcium, which is the most abundant mineral found in the human body. Calcium is required in significant amounts by the body and is either absorbed from calcium‐rich foods or extracted from stores in the bones.5 Foods that contain high levels of calcium include milk and dairy products, tofu, red and white beans, bok choy, kale and broccoli.6 Dark green vegetables such as spinach and asparagus are good sources of vitamin K, which is necessary for the proper use of calcium in the body. Low vitamin K levels have been associated with osteoporosis and individuals with higher levels of vitamin K in their blood have been found to have a higher bone density as well.7

5. Take a calcium supplement

Calcium is one of the most important minerals in bone. It is also important for other functions in the body, such as the healthy functioning of your heart, muscles and nervous system. If your diet is insufficient in calcium, your body will take calcium from inside the bones, where it is stored and will use it to fulfill these functions. If this occurs over a long period, your bones may become less dense and you may be at a risk of developing osteoporosis.8 Taking a calcium supplement will assist in topping up your calcium intake every day. Many calcium supplements also contain vitamin D for optimal absorption.9