A healthy diet and active lifestyle can ensure your bones are kept strong and healthy. Vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D are an essential part of a healthy diet. Calcium-rich foods are essential in building strong bones and vitamin D will ensure that the calcium within your diet is absorbed efficiently.
Good sources of calcium in foods include:
- dairy products such as milk and cheese
- dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage. Spinach is not a good source of calcium as it contains oxalate, which reduces calcium absorption
- soya beans and tofu
- plant-based drinks such as almond, soya, and coconut milk are often fortified with added calcium and vitamin D
- bread made with fortified flour
- fish such as sardines and pilchards
Adults need around 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. The sun provides a lot of our vitamin D during the spring and summer months (March – September). However, during autumn and winter, it is recommended to take a daily vitamin D supplement due to the absence of sunlight. Foods that are good sources of vitamin D include:
- oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel
- egg yolks
- fortified foods, such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
Certain groups within the population are at a greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D, such as those who do not go outside often and those that are housebound or in a care home. People who cover their skin with clothes when outside, or people with dark skin such as African, African Caribbean or of South Asian origin. These groups are advised to take a daily vitamin D supplement all year round.
If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis your doctor may prescribe you a calcium and vitamin D supplement.
Magnesium and Potassium are also key nutrients to keep your bones healthy. If you are low on magnesium it can interfere with your vitamin D balance. Potassium neutralises acid in the body which can remove calcium from your bones. Sweet potato is a great source of both magnesium and potassium.
Alcohol and caffeine consumption can also lead to premature bone loss, so it is important to limit the amount of alcohol in your diet. Caffeine can also decrease calcium absorption so drink caffeinated drinks in moderation.
Being inactive can increase the risk of osteoporosis as your muscles and bones lose strength. Whilst being active is encouraged at any age, over 65’s should try to complete around two and a half hours of exercise a week. This can be of moderate intensity and ideally spread out over the week. Moderate activity will make you breathe faster, increase your heart rate, and make you feel warmer.
Examples of moderate-intensity activities include:
- water aerobics
- ballroom and line dancing
- riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- playing doubles tennis
- pushing a lawnmower
Activities that can build strength are also important as part of a balanced healthy lifestyle. You should aim to partake in activities to strengthen the muscle around twice a week, activities such as;
- lifting weights
- carrying groceries
- going up and downstairs
- exercising to music
- heavy gardening, such as digging
Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are ideal activities to improve balance and flexibility, they can also ease stiffness in joints and muscles.
You should also try to avoid sitting around for long periods. If you find you have been sitting for more than about 20 to 30 minutes, get up and go for a stroll.
You may need to be cautious about any new exercise routine and should always consult your GP or consultant before undertaking any change to your normal routine.