BONES are the framework on which we build a healthy body.
Without strong, healthy bones, our bodies will suffer along with our quality of life.
As a result, we need to look after our bones from a young age and be sure we do as much as we can to keep them as healthy as we age so they remain as strong as possible into our twilight years.
According to Healthy Bones Australia, bones have several important jobs. They:
- Protect soft internal organs (eg. brain, lungs)
- Contain marrow, where blood cells are made
- Store minerals
- Support the structure of our bodies so that we can maintain an active lifestyle
Through different stages of our life, our bones require different levels of support to maintain their strength.
For most people, bones reach peak mass - meaning they are at their strongest - when we are in our 20s.
That makes it important to give our bones the best start we can, but it remains equally important to maintain our bone health as we get older.
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No matter our age, the three most important factors for maintaining bone health are calcium, vitamin D and exercise.
The best time to build strong bones is while they are growing in childhood, so a diet with plenty of calcium - milk, cheese, yoghurt - as well as plenty of time playing outside is a great way to help ensure the building blocks are there for later-life bone strength.
Our teenage years are a major growth period – in the space of about two years (generally between 12 and 14 years for girls and 13 to 15 years for boys) the teenage body builds one-quarter of our adult bone mass.
That means it is equally important for teenagers to continue the three-part guide to better bones.
And adults are by no means off the hook when it comes to a focus on their bones.
Despite facing increasing stresses and growing competition for our time, it is still important to maintain a healthy diet and an active lifestyle for general overall health, as well as bone health.
With peak bone mass arriving in our late 20s, it is equally important to get adequate calcium, exercise and vitamin D after this time to help maintain the bones that have been have built.
Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend:
- Women aged 19-50 and men aged 19-70: two-and-a-half serves of dairy foods per day
- Women over 50: four serves
- Men over 70: three-and-a-half serves
Poor bone health
Poor bone health affects two out of three Australians.
Brittle bones can lead to fractures, causing chronic pain or leading to disability and loss of independence.
The aspect of bone health many people are familiar with is osteoporosis, which occurs when bones lose calcium and other minerals, making them fragile.
While it affects 1.2 million people in Australia, it is women at most risk. More than one in five women over the age of 65 years are living with osteoporosis, compared with around one in 20 men.
However, It is never too late to start looking after your bones by continuing the lessons we learn in childhood about high-calcium diets, exercise and vitamin D.
For more information: visit www.healthybonesaustralia.org.au or www.healthybones.com.au.