How to protect your bones at any age

From our forties onwards, our bones gradually begin to diminish in density. This is a natural part of ageing, but in some people the amount of bone lost can predispose them to developing osteoporosis. This is a condition in which the bones become fragile and more likely to break. It has no symptoms and so the first sign of the condition often involves a fracture.1 Even though some degree of bone loss is inevitable as we grow older, there are things we can do to help improve our bone density and reduce the likelihood of developing weak bones and osteoporosis.

The three vital components for healthy bones during all stages of life include calcium, exercise and vitamin D through sunshine.2 A deficiency in calcium in the bloodstream leads to reduced bone mass because the body will pull calcium stored in the bones into the blood to maintain adequate levels.3 In order to make sure you have enough calcium in your diet, eat plenty of calcium rich foods including milk and milk products, edible bony fish, legumes, nuts and breakfast cereals fortified with calcium.4

Exercise is also important for bone health. For most people, bone mass is at its best (densest) during their thirties. After this some bone loss is inevitable but bone loss may be reduced by maintaining regular exercise habits. The best forms of activity for bone health are weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, tennis, lifting weights and dancing. Exercise also maintains muscle strength, coordination and balance, which further reduces the risk of falls and fractures.5

Sunshine allows our body to produce Vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones. Vitamin D controls calcium levels in the blood and is essential for normal bone and muscle development and for preventing osteoporosis. People at risk of a vitamin D deficiency include those with naturally very dark skin and those who have little or no sun exposure which may be from deliberately avoiding sun exposure for cosmetic or health reasons.6