A natural change with ageing is a loss of bone density. It is important to do what you can to keep your bones as strong as possible to avoid potential fractures, and the possible knock-on effects and recovery from these.
So there is an expected loss of bone density as we age, but a loss of bone density can occur as a result of some illnesses and taking some medications. There is also a sharp change in hormones around the female menopause. This can make ladies more susceptible to a reduced bone density, however reduced bone density is not just a female issue.
You may be referred for DXA scanning if your GP feels you may have these changes. A slight reduction in bone density may be referred to as osteopenia, a more marked reduction may be diagnosed as osteoporosis. Depending on your particular situation and history. Treatment may look at lifestyle factors; for example diet and exercise. Supplementation and/or other prescribed medications may also be advised.
The ideal scenario would be to try and counter these changes with more conservative approaches in order to try and prevent further issue later down the line. The best time to do this is in childhood, this is the time you build-up your skeletal mass. Think of it as a “bone bank” that you borrow from for the rest of your life.
So we need to be guiding the young people in our lives regarding diet and exercise (see below) as well as possible to give them the best “bone bank” possible.
Another crucial period of time in a female’s life, is the year running up to her menopause. But how do we know when this will be? We don’t. We may have a rough idea what could be likely if we know what our mother’s age of menopause was. We know the approximate age it’s likely to happen at. But this is an unknown. So it’s important to make taking care of your bones a part of your lifestyle.
The following factors are important to counter an excessive loss of bone density:
- Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, skipping and jogging. Do what feels appropriate for you. Also resistance exercises help. So try a little weight lifting. Just using a little resistance would help e.g. baked bean cans for upper body weights. You don’t have to train to an Olympic standard!
- Making sure you have the appropriate amounts of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium (see below). This may need to be through a combination of diet and supplementation. Keep a food diary for a couple of typical weeks for you to try and gauge what, if anything is required. These are not the only vitamins and minerals essential to bone health. A consultation with a nutritional therapist might be necessary.
- If you know you have suffered an illness, possibly an eating disorder or a digestive issue that may effect the uptake of nutrients. Be aware that you could be at slightly more risk and discuss this with your GP.
- Be mindful that some medications can predispose to a reduction in bone density, especially if they have needed to be taken over a long period. For example steroid treatment, and some epilepsy medications.
These are the current recommendations for supplementation.
- Calcium – for all adults, aged 19-64 years of age 700mg/day.
- Magnesium – for men aged 19-64 years of age, 300mg a day. For ladies of the same age range, 270mg a day.
- Vitamin D (be aware that it can be difficult to get the required amounts of vitamin D from your diet. Vitamin D is largely synthesised in our bodies via a reaction through sunlight on our skin. This is not possible all year around.) 5 years of age to adult = 10mcg a day. This is possibly only necessary over the autumn and winter months.
The following foods are examples of sources of the above:
Whitebait 100g is 870mg/Ca
Cheddar/Edam cheese 50g is 350mg/Ca
Canned Sardines 70g is 350mg/Ca
Raw spinach 100g is 170mg/Ca
A large orange is 70mg/Ca
20 shelled almonds is 50mg/Ca
Pumpkin seeds 35g is 184mg/Mg
Taco shell 100g is 104mg/Mg
Muesli 95g is 90mg/Mg
Boiled brown rice 100g is 88mg/Mg
30 Peanuts is 70mg/Mg
2 slices brown bread is 40mg/Mg
VITAMIN D (Vit D)
2 fillets cooked mackerel (about 110g) is 21micrograms/vit D
Tinned salmon 100g is 12.5 micrograms/vit D
Tinned tuna 100g is 5 micrograms/vit D
1 egg (60g) is 1 microgram/vit D
All Bran 45g is 0.8 microgram/vit D
1/2 pint semi-skimmed milk is 0.03 micrograms/vit D