Your bone health is largely influenced by your genes, but your lifestyle affects it too.
You can strengthen your bones by doing regular weight bearing activity (this means exercise where your legs and feet support your weight, such as walking, jogging and tennis) and by eating a healthy diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as reduced-fat dairy products.
Vitamin D is also important for strong bones. Most of us get the vitamin D we need from regular exposure to summer sunshine rather than from food. Try to go outside every day from May to September without sunscreen for around ten minutes. Try to do this once or twice a day but don't let your skin redden or burn.
The Government recommends that certain groups of people take a vitamin D supplement of 10 µg daily, including people aged 65 and over. If you think you could be at risk of not getting enough vitamin D, particularly if you’re housebound or cover your skin for cultural reasons, raise this with your GP. Always speak to your GP before starting to take a vitamin D supplement or over-the-counter medicine on a daily basis.
Bone tends to become weaker as we age and everyone has some degree of bone loss as they get older. Osteoporosis is the term used when bone loss makes bones significantly more fragile. It commonly affects bones in the spine, wrists and hips. It means that you're more likely to break a bone if you fall, or experience chronic pain if bones in your spine collapse.
You are more at risk of osteoporosis if you:
- are female and had an early menopause or hysterectomy
- have a parent who broke a hip, particularly after only a minor fall
- have taken corticosteroid medication for a long time
- are underweight or have suffered from an eating disorder
- are/have been a smoker or heavy drinker
- have a condition such as Crohn’s or coeliac disease
- have a medical condition that means you are immobile for a long time.
Complete the healthy bones questionnaire on the National Osteoporosis Society’s website to discover which factors could affect your bone health. If you’re worried about osteoporosis, you can print out a factsheet based on your answers which you could take to your GP.