Bone health is a top health concern for women in Australia. Some people think bones are rather boring, but in fact, your skeleton is alive with activity! Your bones are constantly changing throughout life – breaking down and rebuilding themselves, so that you end up with a brand new skeleton every 10 years.
Added to all that, your bones have so many jobs; they move you, they protect precious organs such as your brain, heart and lungs, they help to make important blood cells – they even store minerals for the rest of your body.
As you can see, your bone health is crucial to your overall health. So here's what you need to know…
The basics of bone health: learn about the three pillars in the video below.
Did you know that calcium is the major building block of your bones? Your body can't make calcium on its own, so that's why you need a steady supply of this important mineral from your diet to keep them strong.
What are the best sources of calcium? Time to browse the dairy aisle! Milk, fortified almond milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products are your best bet for bone health.
Rethink sardines! Some people are put off by this 'fishy' little fish, but the fact that you can also eat their bones makes them a clear winner in the calcium stakes. Likewise for other bony oily fish, such as salmon, herring and mackerel. Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella has created a delicious new sardine recipe that we think even the most fish-fussy among you will be tempted by.
What if you're vegetarian, vegan or dairy-intolerant? Calcium is found in other foods such as broccoli, calcium-enriched tofu/tempeh, soy and almonds. It requires a bit more work to reach your required levels with these foods, but every bit helps.
How much calcium do you need? Your calcium needs change, depending on your age and life stage.
What does 1000mg of calcium look like?This chart from Osteoporosis Australia shows you how much calcium is in different serving sizes of everyday foods.
Keep calcium top of mind in midlife and beyond. When women go through menopause, the shifting hormone levels – particularly the drop in oestrogen – speeds up the rate of bone loss. That's why osteoporosis affects three times as many women as men.
Check out this map from Osteoporosis Australia for sun-safe exposure times, based on where you live, to ensure you get enough vitamin D. According to the Cancer Council, most people get enough vitamin D through regular incidental exposure to the sun. When the UV Index is 3 or above (such as during summer), most people maintain adequate vitamin D levels just by spending a few minutes outdoors on most days of the week.
The best form of physical activity for bone health is weight-bearing activity. What does weight-bearing mean? It's where you're using your body to work against gravity. Examples include tennis, dancing, skipping, boxing, push-ups and sit-ups, some types of yoga, and jogging. Although they're great for other aspects of your health, swimming and walking are not weight-bearing activities.
So how are you going to start boosting your bone health?
Choose a few of the tips above that best suit you, your life and your needs. Start practising them this week and beyond, and you'll be well on your way to stronger bones and a stronger you.
This content originally appeared as a part of Women's Health Week 2017. Sign up for Women's Health Week to receive five days of content like this in September 2018 and don't miss the action.