Looking after your bones
There is a lot of attention in the media give to looking after your heart, lungs and circulation but let’s not forget our bones and how amazing they are. Here are a few facts about bones and why we should look after them:
- the human skeleton is made up of 206 bones
- without bones our hearts would collapse, we couldn’t breathe, walk or move about;
- bones are where our bodies store approximately 1Kg of calcium, we also make blood cells and store iron in our bone marrow;
- slowly losing minerals in bone (bone mineral density) is a normal part of the aging process;
- loss of bone mineral density happens faster in some individuals especially in women after the menopause and in both men and women with chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis , coeliac or crohn’s disease;
- by the age of 75yrs half of the UK population has osteoporosis even though it is not always formally diagnosed or treated;
- 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will fracture a bone mainly due to poor bone health (usually osteoporosis);
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose their strength and are more likely to break. Osteoporosis doesn’t show any outward symptoms and the first sign of osteoporosis is often a broken bone. If you have osteoporosis or think you may have it ask your GP for some advice or contact the National Osteoporosis Society (0808 800 0035).
What can you do to keep your bones healthy?
Keep active: bones respond to stresses and strains and will keep stronger for longer if you keep an active lifestyle. Walking and activities when you are standing are best to keep bones stronger but even exercises in a chair can help.
Maintain good balance and co ordination to reduce the risk of falling, activities such as Tai Chi can be particularly helpful. Strong muscles go hand in hand with good balance: any exercise will help sharpen your balance and co ordination.
Reduce your risk of falling. Most falls occur in the home. Remove hazards like loose rugs and electric cords, wear well fitting footwear and check your eyesight regularly.
Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. You need calcium and vitamin D as part of a varied diet to keep bones healthy. The general recommendations are to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables, plenty of starchy food, milk and dairy products, some protein from meat, fish or nuts and pulses and a small amount of food and drinks which are high in fat or sugar every day. Calcium and vitamin D are particularly rich in dairy produce (even skimmed milk) and green leafy vegetables. Smoking and alcohol (more than 3 units a day) both reduce your bone health by starving the bone cells of the nutrients they need.
Review your medicines with your GP. Some drugs are well known to increase your risk of osteoporosis and although they may be essential to keep you well some simple additional advice can often balance their risks.
This article is derived from a piece originally written by Fiona Cowell, Extended Scope Physiotherapist in Trauma Management at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospitals Trust