More than three million UK adults suffer from the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis – and risk rises sharply with age. The good news? There's plenty you can do to protect yourself by introducing simple bone-building strategies into your everyday routine.
Informative, in-depth and in the know: get the latest health news and info with Saga Magazine. Find out more
Build muscle carrying your shopping
Buying your groceries online might save you time and effort – but it also means you'll be missing out on the bone-strengthening benefits of carrying your own shopping, warns the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. The NHS recommends doing two strengthening exercise sessions each week – and carrying heavy loads such as groceries is just as beneficial as a weights session in the gym.
Your home muscle-strengthening programme
Don't cancel the milk
Fashionable diets that cut down – or cut out – dairy could be a 'ticking time bomb' for bone health, according to the National Osteoporosis Society. The reason? Milk and dairy foods are a vital source of bone-building vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium. If you're advised to lower your dairy intake for genuine medical reasons, make sure you compensate by eating other calcium-rich foods, such as cereal, nuts and seeds.
The best bone-strengthening foods
Eat more yogurt
Need more convincing about dairy? Increased yogurt consumption in older adults is linked to a higher hip bone density and a significantly reduced risk of osteoporosis, according to a recent study at Trinity College Dublin.
Run for the bus
A brief daily burst of high-intensity exercise – equivalent to a medium-paced run for pre-menopausal women or a slow jog for post-menopausal women – is enough to build stronger bones, say scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Leicester. Women who averaged one to two minutes of running each day had four per cent better bone health than those who managed less than a minute.
Try some turmeric
Curcumin – a compound found in the popular Indian spice turmeric – can help build and repair bone mass in older people, according to a recent study at the University of Genoa. But before you rush off to rustle up a curry, it's worth noting that turmeric is more easily absorbed in supplement form.
Healthy reasons to eat more spices
Be content with your lot
We know being happy is sometimes easier said than done. Nevertheless, older women who are satisfied with their lives tend to have higher bone density and are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis than their less-content counterparts, according to a study at the University of Eastern Finland. After 10 years, those who were now feeling more satisfied – even if they'd originally been very dissatisfied – showed big improvements in their bone density.
Snack on prunes
Eating five or six prunes each day can boost bone health in post-menopausal women, say San Diego State University researchers. The reason? Prunes contain chemicals that block bone resorption – the process by which calcium is released into the bloodstream, weakening the bones.
Get a good night's sleep
Rarely sleep well? Chances are you're at increased risk of bone loss, say scientists at the University of Colorado. After just three weeks of reduced slumber and irregular sleep patterns, healthy men saw a significant reduction in their bone health.
What sleep deprivation does to your health
Get off your bike
Yes, cycling is a great way to keep fit and puts far less strain on the joints. But when it comes to boosting your long-term bone health, it's not so great. In fact, say Italian scientists, ultra-endurance cyclists suffer chronic bone loss, whereas ultra-marathon runners actually see their bone health improve. The lesson for the rest of us? It pays to get out of the saddle and exercise on foot from time to time.
Have a nice cup of tea
Drinking at least three cups of black tea each day is associated with a 30 per cent lower risk of osteoporosis-related fractures in older women, according to an Australian study. It's thought the effect is partly due to the bone-building properties of flavonoids – antioxidants found in tea.
The health benefits of tea and coffee
Subscribe today for just £12 for 12 issues...