Bone strength starts to deteriorate once we hit our mid-30s. These expert tips will help boost bone mineral density to keep your skeleton strong.
1. Eat a diet that is nutrient-dense and made up of a range of wholefoods, ideally cooked from fresh. Aim for good quality meat, pulses (lentils and beans), fish, tinned sardines, dairy products, nuts, fruit and a wide variety of vegetables. Keep crisps, cake and confectionary to a minimum, as they don’t have any health benefits.
2. For the body to absorb and use calcium effectively, it needs sufficient levels of vitamin D. Make sure you get enough exposure to sunshine in the summer – up to two 10 minute sessions of exposure to sun without sunscreen per day is fine if you have very fair skin and the recommended 15-20 minutes per day puts you at risk of burning (always use sunscreen the rest of the time). Eat foods that contain vitamin D, such as eggs and fortified breakfast cereals. You may want to consider a supplement, particularly if you are a pregnant woman or over 65 – your doctor will be able to advise.
3. Stick to the alcohol guidelines – currently 14 units a week for women and 21 for men (a 750ml bottle of wine has 10 units; a single measure (25ml) of spirits has one). Too much booze is bad for bones – it interferes with the absorption of both calcium and vitamin D.
4. Do some varied resistance exercise. After the age of 30, we start to lose bone density as well as muscle mass. Key problems associated with poor bone density are spinal, hip and wrist fractures. We can stop this decline with exercise, which helps to maintain muscle mass and strength. Resistance exercise, such as weight lifting or using our own body weight, is ideal. Don’t get too hung up on lifting huge weights or putting yourself through a punishing regime. Some activity is better than none!
5. See your doctor if you’re worried about bone density – for instance, if family members have it you may be more susceptible as there is a familial link. Other warning signs are broken bones during routine activities on several occasions. Osteoporosis is most prevalent in the post-menopausal female population, particularly those with early menopause. If you or your doctor suspects you have low bone mineral density you will be sent for a DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan. If you are found to have low bone density, you’ll be advised to undertake high impact sports like skiing with care as you’re at increased risk of breaking or fracturing a bone if you fall.