Being fifty-something, I’m heartened to hear that it’s never too late to think about your bone health and the decisions you can make to help prevent osteoporosis.
And I love this new October SCREAM for Halloween campaign by Healthy Bones Australia / Osteoporosis Australia that challenges us to think about bone health just as our thoughts are turning to skeletons, spookies and pumpkins. Clever.
More than 33% of Australians suffer from poor bone health. Osteoporosis is one of our silent killers.
Susie Burrell, esteemed dietician and ambassador for SCREAM for Halloween, shares the low-down on healthy bones for any age.
“According to Osteoporosis Australia, over 1.2 million Australians have osteoporosis, and a further 6.3 million have osteopenia, or low bone density, which increases risk of the disease in the future,” said Susie. “It’s a condition that can affect anyone at any age, but is also highly preventable through a few key healthy lifestyle measures.”
“Whether you’re 5 or 55, making the right choices now will mean your bones will be significantly healthier for years to come. This is why, as a Healthy Bones Ambassador, we are screaming out to all Australians to think about their bone health this October.”
I asked Susie specifically about the impact of osteoporosis on over-50s and what we could do to minimise its effects.
“As you age, you’ll start to encounter a decline in bone mass which can increase the risk of Osteoporosis,” Susie said. “For women, this will generally start to occur around the time of menopause.”
“It is important if you fall into this age group to ensure that you are eating your recommended amount of calcium every day. For women over 50 this is 1,200mg of calcium daily. This equates to about 3-4 serves of calcium rich foods including dark, leafy greens, low-fat cheese, low-fat milk and almonds.”
“You should also incorporate some form of weight-bearing exercise into your routine, such as a brisk daily walk or mix it up with a dancing lesson or weekend hikes. Healthy Bones Australia has a great online calculator that you can use to keep track of this.”
I’m including Susie’s tips for other age groups here, too. You might like to “bone up” on the detail and SCREAM it out to your kids, grandkids, siblings, work colleagues or friends in the lead-up to Halloween. Much more useful than trick or treat. Everyone can benefit. It’s never too early, or too late.
Instilling a healthy diet into children’s lives that contains lots of calcium, is key to building and maintaining strong bones from a young age. Incorporating foods such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and broccoli that are high in calcium into meals will get them used to eating these foods and developing good eating habits. Try to get your little ones from in front of the television and outside and being active. Running, jumping and skipping are not only fun but great for strong bones. Getting kids engaged in an outside sport such as soccer or netball is also a great way to promote healthy bones.
People who are physically active tend to have a higher bone mineral density, which means healthier bones. Keeping active and incorporating regular exercise routines into your week can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, and there’s no better time to do this than when you’re a teenager. High impact, weight bearing exercises are best for bones. So it’s a great time to be playing sports such as soccer, hockey, tennis, netball and football. In young people, these can not only improve mobility, but increase bone density by 2-8% per year. If you play sports outdoors, you’ll get the added bonus of regular, safe, sunshine exposure as well.
Your twenties may be a time of exploration, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw healthy habits out the window. Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day (two at the absolute maximum), and if you’re a smoker, consider the lifetime value of your bones as reason to quit now. Your twenties are also the time when most people reach peak bone mass, so maintaining this is crucial, with regular consumption of calcium rich foods, weight bearing exercise and sunshine. Aim to maintain a healthy weight as being underweight increases risk of osteoporosis.
THIRTIES AND UP
Adulthood has well and truly sunk in by this stage, with healthy bones becoming important in leading a fit and active life that’ll take you from your peak working years into retirement. Bones can also slowly start to lose their density in one’s early thirties, so your lifestyle choices carry heavier weight. While work and family commitments make life extremely busy, it’s important to still get outside for at least 5-10 minutes of sunshine a day and to exercise regularly. Pay extra attention to your diet and make a conscious effort to consume foods high in calcium. Calcium supplements can boost intake if this is on the low side.
And Susie has a final word for us fifty-somethings:
“With approximately one in two women over 50 set to break a bone due to osteoporosis, the need to fundraise is paramount. This is why I got on board as a SCREAM for Halloween ambassador. To donate or to find out more about hosting a fund-raising Halloween party during October, head to the fundraising page of the campaign website.”
[This NOT a sponsored post. Just info that's important enough to share.]