© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Over the past few months we have focused on building up and maintaining good health - be it mental health, nutrition, fitness and lung health. I say why not make the most of this year by establishing some good health routines and raising your spirits in doing so!
In rounding out the focus on health, this week we'll look at bone health.
While we live in a country abundant in calcium-rich foods, sunlight and opportunities to exercise, it is staggering that 66% of Australians over 50 suffer from the bone disease osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Osteoporosis is called the 'silent disease' as there are no symptoms until fractures occur. If you break a bone after a minor bump or fall, that's the red flag to speak with your GP about having a bone mineral density scan.
The most common fractures are those of the hip, spine and wrist. The concerning part is what is called the 'cascade effect' as one fracture leads to more fractures. About 50% of people with one fracture due to osteoporosis will have another, and this can all lead to chronic pain and incapacity.
Statistics on the condition in Australia are comprehensive so I'll just leave you with one that, to me, raises a loud alarm bell.
By 2021, someone will be admitted to hospital every three to four minutes as a result of an osteoporotic fracture.
Tell me about bone density
The building of bones takes place during childhood and the teenage years. Basically, you've reached 90% of your peak bone mass at 18 years if you are a girl and 20 if you are a boy.
This is why it's important for young ones to listen to their elders when asked to drink that glass of milk, as one's youth is the time to invest in bones!
Peak bone mass is enjoyed in your 20s and 30s, noting that your bone mass may differ to another's due to genetic and environmental factors. It is said that genetic factors account for up to 75% of bone mass, and diet and exercise habits for 25%.
The weighting on genetics highlights the importance of understanding your family's history of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
The situation changes for women on reaching menopause. The hormone estrogen helps build bone density and when menopause arrives, estrogen levels rapidly decline. As a result, bones lose calcium at a faster rate.
Consequently, women over 50 are at more risk of osteoporosis. But men don't escape the disease, they just experience it later in their 70s, as their bones lose calcium over time.
To build and maintain our bones, Osteoporosis Australia advises us to focus on three things:
Ensure you have a diet rich in calcium. Adults should consume 1,000 mg per day of calcium. For women over 50 and men over 70, the intake should be 1,300 mg per day.
Looking at this calcium-rich food chart, to consume 1000 mg per day, we're looking at two glasses of milk per day. A fail-safe measure would be to speak to your GP about taking a calcium supplement.
2. Vitamin D
We need a few minutes of sunshine each day as those rays of Vitamin D help our bones absorb calcium. And it's incredible to think that in this sunny land of ours around 30% of Australians are deficit in Vitamin D.
Here we need to weigh up the other health risk of skin cancer so the advice is early morning or late afternoon sun to avoid UV rays. Consider downloading the handy SunSmart App that tracks UV levels during the day. Or again, speak to your GP about taking a Vitamin D supplement.
3. Regular exercise
The best bone building exercises are weight-bearing and resistance exercises.
Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, dancing and playing tennis see us bearing our own weight against gravity. Resistance exercises involve lifting weights, using stretchy resistance bands or working out on weight machines.
As a start, Arthritis NSW has a short clip on some simple resistance exercises you can take up at home.
Professional guidance on exercise from a physiotherapist is recommended if you have a family history of osteoporosis or have suffered a fracture.
Here to help
If you or a loved one are recovering from a bone fracture and require help during your recovery, feel free to call me, Danielle Robertson, to ensure the focus remains on healing, attending medical appointments, bone mineral density investigations, and establishing any ongoing treatment.
Please be aware that my comments in this blog are given as guidance only and are no substitute for professional medical advice.