Collaborative Healthcare Blog

Health bones for everybody

Stay strong with healthy bones

Bone health is important at any age, but if you’re over 50 it’s a priority.

Family history and lifestyle factors affect our bone health so it is important to make bone health a priority for life. The growing burden of poor bone health affects our quality of life and increases costs to the health care system:

  • Over 1 million Australians are affected by osteoporosis.
  • Over 6 million Australians have low bone density, a possible precursor to osteoporosis.
  • One third of all Australians have poor bone health.
  • One in three people with osteoporosis are men.
  • In Australia there is currently one bone broken every 3.6 minutes due to poor bone health. That’s 395 broken bones per day! By 2022 there will be one fracture every 2.9 minutes.

Our bones support us, allow us to move, and protect our brain, heart, and other organs from injury. They store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous, which help build bone strength, and release these minerals into the body when we need them for other uses.

There are many things we can do to keep our bones healthy and strong.

Tips for good bone health

Adopt these three elements to maximise your bone health.

  1. Eat foods that support healthy bones. Foods rich in calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorous and magnesium promote strong bones. 

    Top daily choices are: dairy products or calcium fortified soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk and some grains; dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, citrus fruit and fruits such as figs and plums, nuts such as almonds, and fatty fish like sardines or salmon. 
  2. Exercise: 30 minutes of weight bearing exercise 4-6 times a week can help maintain better bone density. Exercise is important for everyone, and helps build stronger, denser bones.
  3. Sunshine: In summer, for moderately fair-skinned people, a walk with arms exposed for 5–10 minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon is beneficial for vitamin D production.

In winter, the same moderately fair skinned person needs to be exposed for longer, so the recommendation is 7–30 minutes at noon. Those who wear covering or concealing clothing or have darker skin are at greater risk of Vitamin D deficiency.

Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions (which includes osteoporosis) are an Australian National Health Priority Area. These conditions contribute significantly to the disease burden in Australia, and there is potential to improve health in this area.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose calcium and other minerals becoming, fragile and brittle. This leads to a higher risk of fractures.

If you are over fifty and have had a fracture from a minor fall or bump this needs to be investigated for osteoporosis. In many cases osteoporosis can be prevented. Treatment is available for those diagnosed with osteoporosis to help strengthen bones.

Risk factors for developing osteoporosis

  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Low calcium intake
  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Particular medical conditions or medicines
  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Excess alcohol consumption.

Awareness and prevention is extremely important and continued research is necessary.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your individual situation and whether you have any risk factors for developing osteoporosis. They can also offer services that assist people living with bone health issues.

Healthy Bones Australia, a national public awareness program with a key focus on prevention, wants to improve the bone health of all Australians, and to help everyone lead a fit and active lifestyle throughout their life.

Healthy Bones Australia would like all Australians to understand and actively embrace their bone health at every age. Bones are at their maximum density around the age of 20, therefore it’s important to make sure they reach their capacity during childhood and continue to stay strong through to old age.

Talk to your friendly local pharmacist or the helpful staff at your pharmacy who can offer services that assist people living with bone health issues.

It is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your bone health. Sometimes, a bone density test may be ordered. This test measures how strong or dense your bones are and whether you have osteoporosis or osteopenia (a milder form of bone density loss). It can also tell you what your chances are of breaking a bone. Bone density tests are safe and painless.

In addition, you can get more information on bone health from pharmacies around Australia providing the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Self Care health information. Self Care Fact Cards available from the clinic, with titles such as Osteoporosis, Weight and health, Menopause, Smoking and Alcohol.