This year people in the UK will suffer more than 300,000 fractures because of the bone disease osteoporosis. That’s one fracture every two minutes. Around three million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis and the fractures it causes change lives and make day to day life extremely difficult. Things we all take for granted – such as turning over in bed, getting around, eating or choosing an outfit to wear – all become problematic because of the risk of breaking bones and the changes to body shape that fractures can bring about.
Osteoporosis occurs when the strength of bones declines, with the result that they become weaker and more likely to break after what can just be a minor bump or fall. The other problem is that most people won’t know that they have weak bones until they suffer a fracture, by which time, it’s too late.
But there is good news. Osteoporosis and the fractures it causes can be prevented and there are lots of things everyone can do to look after their bones. Here’s some tips from the National Osteoporosis Society to help you stay fracture free in 2017.
Chalk and cheese!
Eating foods rich in calcium is a must for strong bones as part of a well-balanced diet. You’ll need to aim for around 700mg a day – you can get this from eating a matchbox sized piece of Edam, a glass of milk, a pot of yoghurt and a handful of almonds.
Let the sunshine in
Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium it needs to build strong bones. The main way to boost levels of this vitamin is through getting short periods of sun exposure to your bare skin once or twice a day without sunscreen and taking care not to burn.
Get outside to do this between March and October when the sun’s rays produce vitamin D.
Vitamin D in the diet
The other way to generate vitamin D – when the sun isn’t shining and during the winter months – is through diet. Choose foods like mackerel, herring, salmon and eggs to pack some vitamin D into your diet during 2017.
Everyone might benefit from a 10 microgram supplement every day during the winter months to generate vitamin D and some people are advised to take one all the year round for example, people who aren’t exposed to the sun because they cover up for cultural reasons, the frail and housebound.
Exercise for strong bones
Any exercise where you are supporting the weight of your own body is great for your bones. Try walking, jogging or dancing to get you started. But remember, if you are older and less steady on your feet it’s really important to exercise to improve your balance and muscle strength too.
As well as all the other risks to your health cigarettes can cause, smoking has a harmful effect on bones – it’s just one of many reasons to give up in 2017.
Keep a healthy body weight
Aim to keep your body weight in the range that is appropriate for you – being underweight or overweight can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
If you think you might be at risk of osteoporosis because you’ve broken a bone easily, book an appointment to discuss this with your GP and ask for a fracture risk assessment – if you are at risk of breaking bones easily, you could start a drug treatment to keep your bones strong.
Find out if there’s any history of osteoporosis in your family. If your mum or dad broke a hip or walked with a stoop – it could mean that you’re at risk of fractures from the condition yourself.
For more information on osteoporosis, bone health and avoiding painful fractures, get in touch with The National Osteoporosis Society. The UK charity runs a dedicated Helpline and provides free information through its website and a wide range of printed publications. www.nos.org.uk Helpline: 0808 800 0035