How to keep your bones healthy and strong

Bone health is essential at all stages of life. We develop peak bone mass in our 20’s – however bone density needs to be maintained as we grow older with age. It is estimated in Australia, that 1 in 4 men and 2 in 5 women aged over 50 years will experience a trauma fracture. With Osteoporosis on the rise, early prevention, detection and treatment needs to be considered.

Osteoporosis – who is at risk?

Osteoporosis is a condition where bones lose minerals more quickly than they can be replenished – this reduces overall density and leads to a higher risk of fractures.

Certain people are at greater risk of developing Osteoporosis, and include:

  • Adults aged over 50 years
  • Having a previous history of falls and fractures
  • Women going through early menopause, or men with low testosterone levels
  • Diagnosis of malabsorption disorders (Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or Coeliac Disease)
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroids for the treatment of Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory conditions.
  • Having a low body weight


So how do we keep our bones healthy and strong?

Here are some preventative measures which can be taken, to keep you in stride:

Eating calcium foods

During our younger ages, our mothers’ would always tell us that drinking milk will make our bones nice and strong. They weren’t wrong – calcium is an important building block for bones.

The general calcium recommendation for adults is 1,000mg/day. As we get older, our calcium needs increase – in fact, women over 50 and men over 70 require 1,300mg/day.

Some tips to boost your calcium intake include:

  • Consuming 2-3 serves of dairy each day – this is equivalent to 1 glass of milk, 1 tub of yoghurt or 2 x slices of hard cheese.
  • Having a handful of dried fruit (apricots) or nuts (brazil or almonds) as a snack.
  • Adding leafy green vegetables (bok choy, silverbeet and spinach) and chickpeas to salads, curries, stir fry dishes and casseroles.
  • For vegetarians, using meat alternatives such as tofu and soy-based products.
  • Making salmon for dinner and taking tins of tuna, salmon or sardines for lunch.


Getting in adequate Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another essential mineral for bone health, because it is assists in the absorption of calcium within the gut. Some foods only contain small amounts of Vitamin D such as oily fish, mushrooms, eggs and fortified products.

Our main source of Vitamin D is through sunlight – many of us do not get enough Vitamin D, especially during the colder months. Some strategies to get outdoors are walking to/from work, taking your morning tea break outside or going for a walk with the dog.

Staying active with “weight-bearing” exercise

And finally, let’s not forget exercise. Weight-bearing activities (running, aerobics and stair climbing) are preferred, as they create impact and help to build bone density.

For older adults at risk of falls, specific balance training may be recommended. If you require further guidance on appropriate levels of activity, it is recommended to visit an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

Having a bone density scan

If you present with any of the risk factors mentioned, you can obtain a referral from your GP to complete a Bone Density scan. A Bone Density Scan can screen for Osteoporosis and Osteopenia (low bone density), and should be done routinely.

So what about supplementation?

Calcium, vitamin D or combination supplements may be recommended by your GP, for low Vitamin D levels or if you are unable to meet your calcium needs through diet alone. According to Osteoporosis Australia, a good guide is to choose a calcium supplement containing 500-600mg calcium in the form of “calcium citrate” or “calcium carbonate”.


Strong bones are like the support walls of a building. By engaging in simple preventative measures, they can weather all sorts of conditions for long periods. Take a step forward towards leading a good quality life – if bone density becomes a concern, it is important to speak with your healthcare care providers, such as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, about the appropriate actions to take.