Around three million people in the UK have osteoporosis, which can occur at any age.
Post-menopausal women are by far the most commonly affected group because of the reduction in their hormone production, which is important for maintaining bone density.
Bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt throughout our lives and oestrogen is needed to clear away old bone, but it is progesterone that helps build new replacement bone.
If you want to maintain strong, healthy, bones then these are the factors that will weaken them.
1. Too much salt
The more salt you eat, the more calcium your body gets rid of, which means it’s not there to help your bones.
Foods like breads, cheeses, potato crisps, and cold cuts have some of the highest counts.
You don’t have to cut salt out entirely, but aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day.
2. Binge watching
It’s fine to enjoy your favourite shows, but it’s a mistake to spend endless hours in front a screen, nestled on your couch.
When it becomes a habit to lounge, you don’t move enough and your bones miss out.
Exercise makes them stronger and it’s best for your skeleton when your feet and legs carry the weight of your body, which forces your bones and muscles to work against gravity.
3. Bike rides
When you pedal to work or ride for hours on the weekend, your heart and lungs get stronger. So that’s good for your body, but not for your bones.
Because it’s not a weight-bearing activity, bike riding does not increase your bone density, unlike walking, running, and hikes.
If you’re a keen cyclist that’s great, but you’ll want to add some time in the weight room to your routine and mix it up with activities like tennis, hiking, dancing, and swimming (the water’s resistance helps your bones).
4. Too much ‘at home’ time
Being indoors too much is just not good for health, mentally or physically.
The body makes vitamin D in sunlight and just 10-15 minutes several times a week could do it.
It is an essential bone health vitamin, but don’t over do the sunbathing because of the potential skin cancer risks.
Other ways of getting enough vitamin D are to add fortified cereals, juices, and milks (including almond, soy, rice, or other plant-based milks, as well as low-fat dairy) to your diet.
5. Alcohol excess
When you’re out with friends, one more round might sound like fun but alcohol has a definite effect on your bones.
To begin with, excessive alcohol interferes with the balance of calcium, an essential nutrient for healthy bones.
Calcium balance may be further disrupted by alcohol’s ability to interfere with the production of vitamin D, a vitamin essential for calcium absorption.
No more than one drink a day for women and two for men is the recommended limit for bone health.
6. It’s not just alcohol that’s a problem
If you are a fan of carbonated soft drinks, some studies have linked bone loss with both the caffeine and the phosphorous in these drinks.
Too many cups of coffee or tea can also rob your bones of calcium.
7. Wheat Bran
Many popular whole grain cereals contain a lot of wheat bran, and if your cereal is 100% that is generally a healthy breakfast.
But unfortunately when you have it with milk, your body absorbs less calcium but it is not a problem with other foods, like bread, that might contain wheat bran.
But if you’re a fan of the concentrated stuff and you take a calcium supplement, allow at least 2 hours between the bran and your pill.
There are so many health risks associated with smoking, but unfortunately when you regularly inhale cigarette smoke, your body can’t form new healthy bone tissue as easily.
The longer you smoke, the worse it get and smokers have a greater chance of breaking a bone and take longer to heal.
But if you quit, you can lower these risks and improve your bone health, though it might take several years.
9. Prescription medications
Some medications, especially if you have to take them for a long time, can have a negative impact on your bones.
Some anti-seizure drugs and glucocorticoids, like prednisone and cortisone, can cause bone loss.
You might take anti-inflammatory drugs like glucocorticoids if you have conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma, and Crohn’s disease.
10. Being underweight
Not usually a concern at menopause, but low body weight, a BMI of 18.5 or less, means a greater chance of fracture and bone loss.
If you’re small-boned, do weight-bearing exercises and ask your doctor if you need more calcium in your diet.
If you’re not sure why you’re underweight, ask your doctor who can check to see if an eating disorder or another medical condition is the reason.
11. If you have a fall
When you tripped as a child, you probably got right back up again. As you get older, though, falls get more dangerous, especially if you have weak bones.
A fracture or broken bone can take a long time to heal. In older adults, it can often be the start of a decline that’s hard to come back from.
Walk easier at home with safety features like grab bars and non-slip mats. Clear the clutter from your path, indoors and out, to avoid a misstep.
The key elements that is missing for most women is progesterone, and this is the hormone that helps to build bones.
Supplementary that will be helpful, but if you are underweight you might also find a combined cream that also has progesterone and oestrogen would be more useful.