Osteoporosis and Diet

Osteoporosis, or brittle bones, is becoming a serious problem

According to the UK National Osteoporosis Society, it already affects 1 in 3 women over the age of 60 and 1 in 2 over 70, and more women die from complications following hip-fractures than from major female cancers.

One of the main reasons for the rise in Osteoporosis is because of our lifestyle. We don’t eat properly, we don’t exercise enough and we don’t look after our weight. Result? Our bones gradually become more and more brittle until one day one of them snaps.

In women, this process is greatly influenced by the female hormone oestrogen. In general, the higher the oestrogen level the stronger our bones. So when we reach the menopause and our oestrogen level falls, our bones rapidly lose strength. This is why Osteoporosis chiefly affects post-menopausal women.

So how can we protect ourselves against Osteoporosis, especially if we are approaching the menopause? Well, there are three basic steps.

Make sure you eat a balanced diet
Up until a few years ago, experts thought that all we had to do was eat more calcium.

It is still important – ideally, take in 1500 mg of calcium per day unless you are on Hormone Replacement Therapy, in which case 1000 mg should be adequate (ask your doctor for what level is best for you, personally) – but now most experts believe that the situation is more complicated. In addition to calcium, we need the right amount of other nutrients, too.

  • Why? Because even if we eat lots of calcium we can’t absorb it properly unless our diet includes enough magnesiumVitamin A and Vitamin D.
  • Even if we absorb enough, we can’t retain it unless we eat enough Vitamin B6 and Vitamin K.
  • Lastly, without enough Vitamin C, we can’t produce enough collagen, which is also important.

Building strong bones is like building a house. We don’t just need bricks (calcium), we also need mortar, plaster, tiles and wood. Or else it’ll collapse.

How to get the right nutrients
The best way to get all the nutrients you need is to eat a sensible balanced diet with lots of fruit, vegetables, beans, yogurt, bread and potatoes, together with smaller amounts of very lean meat, lower-fat cheese and oily fish (esp. sardines). In addition, have at least half a pint of low-fat milk per day. Lastly, cut down on red meat, chocolate, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, as all these things tend to weaken our bones and increase the risk of getting Osteoporosis.

Take regular exercise, ideally in the fresh air
Why? Because regular exercise helps to keep bones rich in calcium. This is why astronauts who spend time in weightless conditions, with no chance to exercise under gravity, always return to earth with a calcium deficiency. What sort of exercise should you take? Brisk walking or light aerobics is ideal, but any regular exercise will help – even sitting in an armchair squeezing a tennis ball!

Keep your weight within sensible limits
For example, in general if you are 5 feet 3 inches tall, then you should weigh somewhere between 112 and 147 pounds (8½ and 10½ stone). If you’re taller/shorter, add/subtract 5 pounds per inch. If your weight is much heavier or lighter than this, the risk of an osteoporosis-related fracture is much greater.

What about HRT?
Does HRT reduce the risk of Osteoporosis? The answer is, Yes it does. But even HRT can’t work miracles and besides, it doesn’t suit everyone. Which is why it’s so important to pay attention to our lifestyle. So take my advice: eat sensibly, get some exercise and watch your weight.

Finally, don’t forget to keep smiling!
Why? Because a cheerful life is still the best way to stay healthy. So whether you’re fat or slim, a nun or an astronaut, strong-boned or in bits – always have a good laugh, every day! It works wonders, believe me!