Strong advice on bone health

Osteoporosis is a bone-weakening disease that affects 1.2 million Australians in their older age. However building healthy bones requires attention throughout our whole lives, beginning in childhood.

What is osteoporosis?

Your bones are made up of calcium, other minerals and collagen (protein). They are a living, constantly changing tissue, with certain bone cells creating new bone, while others destroy old bone. Creating new bone particularly thickens and strengthens the inner, mesh-like bone, which can be measured as bone mineral density (BMD).

Most bone thickening and strengthening occurs during childhood up until your mid-20s when bone growth dominates. Then from around the age of 35, bone loss slowly takes over as a normal part of ageing. However, when bone loss becomes excessive, osteoporosis can develop.

Bones weakened by osteoporosis are vulnerable to breaking (fractures), which may occur due to mild trauma such as putting out your hand when you fall. Breaks are most common in your wrists, hips and spine. Other symptoms may include muscle weakness, stooped posture and losing height.

What to do

Osteoporosis may be prevented throughout your life with a combination of:

  • Good calcium intake from dairy foods, canned fish, tofu, beans and green leafy vegetables.
  • Sufficient level of vitamin D, which helps absorb calcium and is created in your body through brief sunlight exposure.
  • Doing physical activities that stimulate bone growth such as jumping, running or walking sports, brisk walking, dancing and strengthening exercises like lifting weights.

If you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis after having a DEXA-scan (radiology) that finds your BMD is too low, in addition to the above measures, you may need to take medications, and calcium and vitamin D supplements. Reducing your risk of falling is also important.

For more information: see your GP, visit Osteoporosis Australia www.osteoporosis.org.au 1800 242 181

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