The Bone Zone
The calcium deficiency experienced by older people, which leads to a loss of bone density, is known as osteoporosis. This condition is most common in post menopausal women, and is the cause of thousands of skeletal problems each year. Sometimes fractures can be caused by nothing more violent than a sneeze.
Osteoporosis is not a natural part of the ageing processing, but it is often an inevitable product of a sedentary lifestyle. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of “brittle bones”.
Most experts agree that a well-balanced diet is sufficient to counter calcium loss. This is largely because the body absorbs calcium more efficiently from food than supplements.
Dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, fromage frais and cheese contain calcium, essential for strong bones and teeth. If you don’t eat dairy, it’s important to eat other foods that contain calcium such as beans, lentils, white bread, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and nuts. Canned fish like salmon and sardines contain calcium if you eat the bones.
Frequent dieting can decrease bone density, and therefore contributes to the problem. This is because the body draws calcium from the bone when it cannot get it from nutritional source.
The easiest way to achieve your daily calcium requirement is to consume 3 portions. A typical portion is 200ml milk, a match box size (30g) piece of cheese or a small pot (150g) of yogurt. Choose reduced and low fat alternatives.
A good way to guard against osteoporosis in later life is to undertake regular weight bearing exercise. This type of activity is strongly recommended as the best method of building strong and healthy bones, and within reason the younger you start the better.
Weight bearing simply refers to activities where the skeletal system is required to support the body weight e.g. walking, running, skiing, weight training etc. Although activities like cycling and swimming are great cardiovascular exercise they are not particularly appropriate in this case.
It would appear that just as with maintenance of muscle tone, the old adage “use it or lose it” is appropriate to the development of strong healthy bones.
- Osteoporosis can occur at all ages, but is most common in post menopausal women.
- Brittle bones are the result of calcium loss and a sedentary lifestyle.
- This process can be slowed and reversed by regular exercise and healthy diet.
- The “use it or lose it” philosophy is true of our bones as well as our muscles.
- The most appropriate forms of training are those which involve weight bearing exercise of moderate intensity.
Did you know….?
Although you can get calcium from other foods like spinach, it isn’t easy for the body to absorb calcium in this form. You would need to eat 11 servings of spinach to get the same amount of calcium that you would get in just one glass of milk.
Think of Thirst First
Feeling hungry? Make sure your body’s not confusing thirst with hunger by drinking a glass of water before you start eating. Many of us have a poor thirst mechanisms and may reach for food when we should be trying to get our optimum target of 2 litres (3 ½ pints) of water a day.