Osteoporosis is a condition that affects over 1 million Australians, and can have a considerable impact on an older person's quality of life and mobility.
While osteoporosis may seem like an inevitable part of the ageing process, there are a number of ways that you can help to minimise the risk, as well as the effects.
Our skeleton – a timeline
As we age, our bone density goes through a number of changes. From childhood this density steadily increases, reinforcing this vital supporting structure until we achieve 'peak bone mass' in our late teenage years or early 20s. This peak mass tends to be higher in men than it is in women.
Our bone mass gradually decreases with age, with women seeing a greater decrease in the years immediately following menopause. When our bones begin to lose minerals at a faster rate than they can be replaced, this can lead to greater bone weakness and brittleness, as well as conditions such as osteoporosis.
How do I know if I have osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is often called the 'silent disease', as many people don't realise that they have it until they experience a fracture. Areas that are particularly prone to fracturing include the wrist and hip, as well as the spine, according to Osteoporosis Australia.
There are a number of factors that can put you at an elevated risk for osteoporosis, including:
- Whether you are male or female – Women tend to be more at risk
- Your family history – Low bone density can be inherited
- Lifestyle factors – Smoking, excessive alcohol, physical inactivity
- Other medical conditions – Thyroid conditions, low hormone levels, chronic diseases and certain medication can put you more at risk
How can I support my skeletal health as I age?
Exercise is one of the best ways to support the mobility of your joints as well as flexibility – nearly 50 per cent of age-related changes to our bones and muscle are caused by disuse, according to Better Health Channel.
Regular, weight-bearing exercise can be beneficial in slowing the rate of bone loss and helping to protect our bones from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis Australia recommends activities such as walking, jogging or stair climbing for at least 30 minutes, 3-5 days a week, as well as muscle training or resistance exercises at least twice a week.
Eating for healthier bones
One of the key minerals that support our bone health is calcium, which we can take in through various food sources. However, many people don't get sufficient levels of calcium in their diets.
Calcium-rich foods include:
- Cheese and yoghurt
- Fish, such as canned salmon or sardines that have edible, soft bones
- Dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale, bok choy, silverbeet
- Broccoli, celery, chick peas, edamame beans
- Calcium-fortified cereals
- Dried figs and apricots
If you're concerned that a loved one may be battling to create wholesome, calcium-rich meals on their own, Bannister In Home Care provides a meal preparation service. The meal types can be tailored to suit a person's specific needs and other dietary requirements, and the service includes menu planning, preparation and serving as well as cleaning and maintenance of food areas.
Vitamin D, which we receive from spending time in the sun, also plays an important role in bone health. The amount of sun you should get will depend on your age, as well as your skin type and where you live in Australia. Be sure to ask your GP about recommended sun exposure time.
You can also get some Vitamin D from foods such as egg yolk, tuna and salmon, as well as Vitamin D-fortified foods and supplements.
If you believe a loved one could benefit from some extra help around the house, or support for a specific condition, don't hesitate to get in touch with the team at Bannister In Home Care to find out what we can do for you.