health

How to have healthy bones

Friday, August 5, 2005

By Annette Campbell

When it comes to keeping ourselves healthy, sometimes we don't think that much about our bones.

So to coincide with National Healthy Bones Week (August 7-13), Judy Stenmark — the CEO of Osteoporosis Australia — shares with us her top tips for bone health.
"It's important to have healthy bones, to help avoid things like fractures and osteoporosis — when bones become fragile and brittle and break easily," she explains.


"We reach our peak bone mass (how strong our bones are going to be), around the age of 20, so there's a great window of opportunity for kids and teens to maximise their peak bone mass by building strong bones in childhood.

"And it's crucial to then maintain bone strength through to menopause and beyond."

Judy says the key ingredients in terms of building bones and keeping them strong are:

Calcium
Great sources are all dairy foods, including low-fat products. While dairy is a quick and easy source of calcium, there are also other options including fortified foods and drinks.

Exercise
Bones need the stress of our body's weight through them, to grow and remain strong. So weight-bearing exercise is crucial. This includes activities such as walking, skipping, jogging, netball, etc. It's also important to include weight-training, as there is a direct correlation between muscle mass and bone strength.

Sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone)
Women need oestrogen in their body for bones to take-up calcium. So anything that interferes with our oestrogen levels (such as having been a young, anorexic teenager; or an elite athlete whose menstruation ceased) means we're at greater risk of osteoporosis. Lower testosterone levels are also a risk factor for men.

Vitamin D
The presence of vitamin D assists our bones in absorbing calcium. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight (there's not as much in foods and it's not as well absorbed). This doesn't mean sunbaking ... it's important to stay sun-safe. But about 6-15 minutes of incidental sunlight, four or six times a week, supplies an adequate dose.

National Healthy Bones Week is August 7-13.
This year the theme is "Make It Milk", encouraging primary school-aged children to enjoy milk as a quick and easy source of calcium and other nutrients.
For more information visit: www.healthybones.com.au
Or contact Osteoporosis Australia: www.osteoporosis.org.au; 1800 242 141.

Picture posed by model.

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