May is National Osteoporosis Month - and I am using this as an opportunity to raise awareness about building bone strength and density when you’re younger to achieve peak bone mass and to maintain bone health and strength as you age.
BONE HEALTH - the facts
The Statistics are alarming–but there seems to be a lack of dialogue about osteoporosis?
The Skeleton is a living organ. Bones are constantly being remodelled with old bone being reabsorbed and new bone being formed. As we grow up large amounts of calcium and other minerals are deposited in bone steadily increasing bone mass until it reaches its "peak" when we are about 25, and after that bone loss starts to outpace bone gain.
The good news is that by considering your posture, your diet and addressing negative aspects of your lifestyle you can optimise your "peak bone mass" and prevent the natural ageing process from becoming pathological. Healthy bone is strong and does not break easily.
Bone building is a complex mechanism and contrary to popular belief calcium is important but its not the only factor –Magnesium, phosphorous, boron and Vitamins C D and K are all important. Magnesium in particular helps the body to use and absorb calcium, and so getting a healthy balance of both calcium and magnesium is important.
The first thing that people think about when you mention bones is calcium and dairy, and although dairy is a good source of calcium women can often become lactose intolerant as they enter the perimenopause and the menopause and dairy products also contain virtually no magnesium.
To get a balance of both calcium and magnesium try and include a diet rich in nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables such as watercress, kale, broccoli and cabbage.
Adding foods such as fish which are rich in omega3’s particularly salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies have also been shown to really help with the absorption of calcium.
It is also really important to make sure that the digestive system is healthy and that the body is able to absorb the nutrients it requires from the food we consume – a high fiber diet, with probiotics and good hydration will certainly help.
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, and the action of Sunlight on your skin provides your main source of Vitamin D. Living in Kenya we are lucky that we have sunlight all year around (well nearly all year around!!) – but in climates where winters are cold and dark getting the required sun can be a problem.
Did you know that if you pop a punnet of mushrooms on a sunny windowsill for an hour or two you will get a 100 x more vitamin D from them.
Finally moving more is key for bone health - movement is hydrating to your soft tissues and fascia, the more you move the better you move. If you don’t move you will lose joint range, lose mobility all of which will have a negative impact on your posture and your bone health. Studies have shown that with specific exercise, bone mineral density in postmenopausal women can be maintained or actually increased –so lets do it.
1. ADD WEIGHTS AND RESISTENCE - to maintain or build muscle tohelp with posture and general ADL’s.
2. ADD IMPACT- research has shown that subjecting bones to abrupt stress prompts them to add mass or at least reduces their loss of mass as people age. To get the levels of stress needed on the bone to build or maintain boney mass you need weight bearing exercise. Don’t forget that the wrists are a vulnerable point for fracture and so a few ½ press-ups loading up your arms are also fab.
3. GET SWEATY - to reach Lactate Threshold. To do this you need to get out of breath, and feel the burn’ but not for extended periods. This is vital for weight management and hormonal balance too.
4. Make sure your routine includes stretching to maintain range of movement and improve posture AND don’t forget to work your balance. As you age balance is one of the first things to go and it goes without saying that if your balance is poor you are more likely to slip and fall and break something.
5. FINALLY, add in that RESTFUL RESTORATIVE exercise which is essential to combat stress – Stress elevated cortisol is a trigger for many of the hormone cascades that disregulate the entire endocrine system which will affect your bone health.