Are the older people in your family standing tall - or are they stooped over at the shoulders, or even bent over? Have older family members suffered fractured bones as a result of only a minor injury - just bumping into something, for instance? Have any of them broken a hip?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may have a family history of a bone-thinning disease called osteoporosis. It's a common problem, particularly in women past menopause, although it does affect elderly men too. Many older people don't realise they have it until they break a bone - at least 50 per cent of women over 60 and up to 30 per cent of elderly men will fracture a bone because of osteoporosis.
It's never too late to do something - even if you already have osteoporosis, there are ways to improve it. As for preventing it, it's never too early to start - even children and teenagers, especially girls, should know how to keep their bones healthy.
o Nutrition:- a good supply of calcium in the diet helps prevent thinning bones. Vitamin D is also important in the absorption of calcium from your diet.
o Regular weight bearing exercise:- almost any activity is beneficial, such as walking, running, exercise classes, resistance or weights training. But the higher the impact of the exercise the better it is for your bone health.
o Hormones:- the female hormone oestrogen helps protect against thinning bones. This is why osteoporosis risk is higher in women after menopause.
o Balance and strength:- because fractures are often the result of a fall, you can help prevent bone fractures by increasing your balance, stability and strength.
o Lifestyle factors:- smoking and excessive amounts of alcohol have a negative effect on bone strength
o Dieting:- a low calorie (and therefore calcium) intake during teenage years results in a lower "bone bank" or total bone density which increases the risk of osteoporosis in later years
Source: NSW Health and Osteoporosis Australia
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