26 June 2018
Q: Dear doctor, I’ve heard maintaining strong, healthy bones can prevent some diseases. What lifestyle changes can I make to strengthen them?
A: Maintaining strong and healthy bones can in fact help reduce the risk of developing the bone thinning disease osteoporosis. This disease can lead to bone fracture with minor trauma. Though our bones tend to lose strength as we get older, there’s plenty you can do to slow down bone loss and reduce the risk osteoporosis.
Alcohol: If you drink more than the recommended weekly intake then you are at risk of lowering your BMD (bone mineral density) and increase the risk of fractures. Alcohol also affects the metabolism of calcium and vitamin D which are essential for bone health.
Caffeine: some studies have shown high caffeine intake can increase calcium excretion, bone loss and the risk of fractures.
- Calcium makes our bones (and teeth) strong and rigid
- Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium
- Protein is important for muscle strength
Increase your calcium intake as this will help to increase your BMD - it is even more important to increase the calcium intake in postmenopausal women as they are at risk of bone thinning.
Exercise: staying active has been proven to be an excellent mechanism for reducing the risk of osteoporosis as it increases BMD and reduces the risk of fracture. Try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, every week. One way to tell if you're exercising at a moderate level is if you can still talk but can't sing the words to a song.
Smoking: smoking is detrimental to bone health as it decreases reproductive hormones, body weight, calcium absorption and BMD. It also induces early menopause and increases bone turnover markers and fracture risk. I would strongly encourage you to stop smoking if you do.
In summary, eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, regular weight-bearing exercise and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and smoking is essential for healthy bones.
Find out more about Dr Zaid Hirmiz, private GP practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.
The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.