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Maintaining bone health with aging is something everyone over 50 would do well to to pay attention to. Osteoporosis is a silent disease, as loss of bone is gradual and may show no outward signs until a fracture occurs. As the bones become more porous with age, fractures can occur with even minor falls, especially at the wrists and hips. Weight bearing stress fractures commonly occur in the spine, causing moderate to severe back pain. These fractures can be debilitating, especially hip and spine fractures.

Most people are aware of the risk of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women: 1 in 3 women over the age of 45 will  have an osteoporotic fracture in Australia. However less well known is the fact that 1 in 3 men over 60 will also have the same problem. These are high odds for anyone in this age group, so it becomes very important to be proactive.

Risk factors include:

  • Diet high in salt, caffeine and/or alcohol (over 2 drinks / day)
  • Insufficient exercise
  • Smoking
  • Inadequate Vitamin D (sunlight, dietary)
  • Inadequate calcium and trace minerals
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Late onset menstruation or early menopause (before 45)
  • Some medications
  • Coeliac or Crohn’s disease (poor absorption)

What you can do to promote bone and joint health:

  • Keep physically active. Low impact weight-bearing exercises such as walking, swimming (water exercises), tennis, golf and strength training can help maintain stronger bones and slow bone loss.
  • Intake adequate calcium  The right kind of calcium is important for preventing and reversing osteoporosis. Calcium hydroxyapatite, an extract from the bones of organically raised cattle, has been shown to be the most effective type of calcium for maintaining bone density. This extract contains the correct ratio of calcium and phosphorus needed for bone health. In addition hydroxyapatite contains type 1 collagen, which provides a matrix for holding the minerals in place. Lastly it contains growth factors that promote bone building activity.   Most of the cheaper calcium supplements  eg: Caltrate consist of calcium carbonate, made from oyster shells, and lack the proper ratios and other factors. If you are vegetarian you may want to take a plant-based calcium: Green Calcium is made from a marine plant called Lithothamnium calcareum, harvested near Iceland. This  plant is naturally rich in calcium. magnesium and other minerals.
  • Trace minerals needed for bone health include magnesium, zinc, boron and manganese.
  • Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products: milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, almonds, broccoli, kale, tinned salmon or sardines with bones, and soy products including soymilk and tofu.
  • Adequate Vitamin D.  Although many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, people who cannot move around independently or who spend most of their time indoors are likely to be deficient. Vitamin D supplements should be vitamin D3 , cholecalciferol, as this is the type of Vit D that promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone health.  Dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, eggs and Vit D fortified milk. See my previous blogs: Why Sun Exposure is Vital for your Health  and How much Sun is Enough?
  • Avoid substance abuse. Avoid smoking and don’t drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

A high quality bone calcium supplement as well as the additional minerals needed for bone health should be taken regularly. Vitamin D3, supplements may also be needed, especially if you have tested positive for Vit D deficiency.