Almost 5 million Australians are living with Osteoporosis and many more are at risk of developing the disease because of poor bone health.
The strength and density of our bones becomes more important with age and helps keep us mobile and active for longer. Our chance of recovery after an injury or fall is greatly aided by healthy bones, but millions of Aussies aren’t doing enough to sustain strong bones in future.
Calcium is one of the most commonly prescribed nutrients to help build bone strength, but recent studies have shown that calcium tablets can increase your risk of a heart attack.
Leading health expert Dr Ross Walker says it’s the way you get your calcium that matters most.
“People over the age of 50, especially post-menopausal women, who regularly took oral calcium tablets had a 30 per cent increased chance of heart attack,” he told Starts at 60.
“Organic sources of calcium are very good for your bones and don’t increase your risk of a heart attack, it’s been shown on numerous occasions.”
In other words, calcium from natural food sources are best. A recent study found that people who ate diary that was rich in calcium had a decreased risk of heart attack and diabetes as well as stronger, more healthy bones.
“It’s not the oral sources of calcium from organic sources, but it’s the inorganic chalk that people swallow that increases their risk of heart attack because the calcium doesn’t go into the bones, but spills into the arteries and is therefore more calcified and more hard,” Dr Walker explains.
Recent studies have suggested that Vitamin K2 is one of the best ways to maximise your body’s use of calcium as it helps distribute the nutrients to the right places. The relatively new vitamin is being hailed by experts around the country.
“Vitamin K2 has been shown to take the calcium out of your arteries and put it back where it belongs,” Dr Walker says. “It’s something I encourage most people over the age of 50 to take just to keep their bones stronger and their arteries healthy.”
The body needs a significant amount of Vitamin K2 to get the job done, which is why a daily supplement is recommended. To get the daily recommended amount from the vitamin you’d need to eat around 4kg beef, drink 5 litres of milk, and consume eight egg yolks, plus a whole load more to reach your daily requirements, which is why supplement form works best.
So why haven’t we heard about it before?
“There’s a wonderful saying about medicine that science advances funeral by funeral,” Dr Walker says.
“Convincing conservative doctors, who tend to be the leading voices in health, that you can’t fix something with a scalpel or a script pad is very difficult.”
Even better than calcium or vitamin K2 though is exercise. Exercise has been shown to be the most important tool in preventing osteoporosis.
When it comes to exercising, research shows there is a Goldilocks paradigm that can make the difference between healthy and dangerous.
The perfect amount? Three to five hours a week.
In terms of heart health, people who exercise for more than five hours a week have a higher dose of calcification in their arteries. Those who stick to the recommended amount have a much lower risk of heart disease and lower rates of osteoporosis, by about 55 per cent.
In order to optimise your workout, and the effect it will have on your bones, you should be doing a mix of cardio and resistance training such as yoga and light weights.
“The most important thing is not to see one thing as important, it’s about the whole process,” Dr Walker says.
“I talk about the five keys of being healthy.
“Number one is to quit all addictions. Number two is to generate a good-quality sleep habit every night, 7-8 hours of sleep is as good for your body as not smoking.
“Number three is good-quality eating and less of it. This is easy in terms of what it should be. It’s just called ‘eat less and eat more naturally’.
“Number four is the second-best drug on the planet — 3-5 hours of exercise a week.
“Number five is happiness. If you do those five things well, you reduce your risk not just for osteoporosis, but for all diseases somewhere in the 70-80 per cent range and clearly the earlier you start the better off you are.”