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Most of us realise that healthy bones are vital to our wellbeing and can help prevent a range of old-age diseases and conditions, including osteoporosis.
But how do we go about looking after our bones? And why are bones so important?
MedAdvisor quizzed Osteoporosis Australia CEO Greg Lyubomisky for Healthy Bones Action Week (August 19-25) on the connection between bone strength and longevity.
“Bone health is an important part of your general heath and having strong bones helps adults remain active and independent,” Mr Lyubomisky says.
“Breaking a bone due to poor bone health is a serious medical emergency and can have a big impact on the patient, their family and the healthcare system.
“Up to 70 per cent of the overall cost of osteoporosis in Australia relates to direct fracture costs. So preventing broken bones and maintaining good bone health is a key priority.”
At the heart of good bone health, of course, is prevention, and building strong bones in a growing skeleton during childhood and maintaining bone strength during adulthood will help ward off conditions such as osteoporosis.
“After peak bone strength is reached in our twenties adults start to gradually lose some bone strength and this can become accelerated around the time of menopause for women,” Mr Lyubomisky says.
“People need to therefore be aware of certain risk factors which can impact their bone health and take positive steps to protect their bones.”
Let’s start with calcium…
All those advertisements about the health benefits of dairy are actually very accurate: adequate calcium intake is important for maintaining bone health.
It is recommended adults have a daily dietary intake of 1000 mg per day, increasing to 1300 mg per day for women over 50 and men over 70 years. Generally speaking, this equates to three serves of dairy per day.
“Dairy products are a good source of calcium and certain vegetables, nuts and fruits are also available,” Mr Lyubomisky says.
“For people who are intolerant to dairy it is recommended more serves of other foods containing calcium be consumed to meet dietary recommendations.”
Vitamin D is also important because it ensures the calcium we consume is properly absorbed. In Australia, vitamin D is most commonly obtained from sunlight exposure and where people are low or deficient a supplement may be required as recommended by your doctor.
Exercise and a healthy diet
It will come as little surprise to learn that diet and exercise also plays a very important role in bone health. Osteoporosis Australia recommends not smoking and limiting alcohol intake, alongside good nutrition and regular weight bearing and resistance exercises.
Bone health, Mr Lyubomisky argues, should not be seen as separate from overall health.
“Think about calcium, vitamin D and exercise and understand risk factors which could impact your bones,” he says.
“This can include certain conditions and medications like coeliac disease, hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, some treatment for breast cancer or protonate cancer.”
People with risk factors for osteoporosis are advised to speak with their doctor about a bone density test.
“This is a simple scan that can indicate if your bones are in the range of normal, low bone density or osteoporosis,” Mr Lyubomisky says.
“When osteoporosis is diagnosed action must be taken to manage and protect a patient’s bone heath against risk of fracture.”
Osteoporosis Australia and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have developed Know Your Bones, an online self-assessment tool that provides a report which can be taken to your doctor for further action, if required.
The self-assessment reviews medical and lifestyle factors which may be impacting on your bone heath and is based on Garvan’s long running study of osteoporosis in Australia.
For more information, visit knowyourbones.org.au
MedAdvisor is in partnership with Osteoporosis Australia to make a real difference in the way patients manage their medication. We are committed to playing an important role in helping you to keep track of your medications. Our medication management platform is focused on addressing the gap and burden of medication adherence. To know more click here.
This story was written by Johanna Leggatt. Johanna is an Australian journalist with more than 15 years’ experience in both print and online. She has worked across a wide range of subject areas, including health, property, finance, interiors, and arts.