You may think you're doing enough to keep your bones healthy, but how can you ensure they stay strong for a lifetime?
A new study has found that Australians need to do more to keep their bones healthy for a lifetime - focusing on their care and strength over the long term, not just the present.
The study by, Osteoporosis Australia published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia, pinpoints key areas of concern and proposes ways in which people can tackle osteoporosis - the bone disease affecting up to 1.2 million Australians today.
Lead author Professor Peter Ebeling from the University of Melbourne said that bone care needs to start as early as childhood - and remain a primary focus all the way through life.
"When we look at optimising bone health, we must look at the whole life cycle and extensive research gives us clear directions on what is required at different stages," he said.
"The strategy focus is on simple interventions to ensure people have adequate levels of calcium intakes, levels of vitamin D and appropriate physical activity throughout their lives."
Ebeling, who is also a Councillor of The American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, revealed that both general practitioners and their patients often overlook bone health and as a result, osteoporosis is often not diagnosed until fractures in the bones have occurred.
"A lifelong approach to building and maintaining a healthy skeleton is paramount," he said.
It is estimated that 6.3 million Australians have low bone density, with up to one third of adults having low vitamin D.
Those at greatest risk of not meeting daily calcium requirements are teenagers, who tend to replace milk with carbonated beverages. Also pregnant women and darker skinned people need additional vitamin D.
How can you improve the health of your bones?
Exercise and nutrition are key to maintaining bone health.
Adequate calcium intake, together with normal levels of vitamin D (which helps the body absorb calcium) are essential for maintaining strong bones.
Good sources of calcium include: milk, yoghurt, cheese (low fat options contain similar levels of calcium), canned salmon or sardines, tofu, broccoli, bok choy, almonds, dried figs and dried apricots.
Most Australians absorb vitamin D through exposure to the sun, and food alone is not an adequate source. Certain foods such as mackerel and herring, eggs and liver provide small quantities but it's advised that in winter, or for those with limited exposure to the sun, supplements are taken to increase levels of vitamin D.
Regular physical activity and exercise play an essential role in maintaining bone health. Jogging, walking, or stair-climbing three times per week can help us achieve a higher bone mass, and delay degeneration.
3 facts about bone health
- Peak Bone Mass - the point at which our bones are at their highest density - is achieved by our early 20s, and nearly 40 per cent of Peak Bone Mass is acquired during puberty. This is why adequate calcium is essential for children and teenagers.
- Adults generally require 1,000 mg of calcium per day in order to maintain their bone strength.
- As we get older, our bodies absorb calcium less effectively - with more being lost through the kidneys. Both men and women therefore need to up their levels of calcium intake in later life - to over 1,300 mg per day.