Osteoporosis – are you at risk? 34



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Do you know someone who had a small fall and broke a bone? That’s not surprising as osteoporosis currently affects over 1 million Australians. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose their density and strength and consequently are more likely to fracture. It is more common in women post menopause as reduced oestrogen levels can cause up to 2% bone density loss each year. If you went through menopause over ten years ago, there’s a good chance that your bones are 20% less dense then they used to be. Men also lose bone as they age however as hormonal levels in men decline more gradually, bone mass deficits generally only present later in life.

The reduction in density and strength can be attributed to losses of calcium from the bones. It is a silent disease as most people show no signs of osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. Common fracture points are in the spine leading to height loss and posture changes, and in the hips and wrists. With each osteoporotic event increased pain and decreased mobility can occur significantly impacting your confidence and quality of life.


Risk factors that can increase your fracture risk include: 

  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Low calcium diet
  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Long-term use of medications such as corticosteroids
  • Cigarette smoking
  • High alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or diseases of the liver, kidney or thyroid


We all agree that prevention is better than a cure! Ensuring that you maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis while also best managing the condition to reduce your risk of future falls and fractures. Let’s look more closely at some strategies that you can do to protect yourself.


Strong bones = less fractures

Calcium is a key compound that makes up the structural component of our bones and teeth. Calcium is also an important nutrient used for many other functions such as the functioning of nerves and muscle. If your body doesn’t get enough calcium from your diet for these daily functions, it takes the calcium that it requires out of your bone, depleting your stores and making your bones increasingly weaker over time.

The Australian Nutrition Survey found that 90% of adult women don’t meet their calcium requirements. This is an alarming figure and one of the main reasons why women are prone to osteoporotic fractures.


Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium. Other calcium rich foods include canned fish with edible bones such as salmon and sardines, nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and calcium fortified products. It is recommended that women have 4 serves of dairy and men have 3 serves each day (4 if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis). If you are not able to meet your calcium requirements through diet alone, talk to your dietitian about calcium supplementation.


Get some sunshine on your dial

Vitamin D is important for bone health because it helps absorb calcium. It also plays a role in supporting growth, maintenance of the skeleton and regulating calcium levels in the blood. The main source of vitamin D is from sunlight exposure. Fifteen minutes of sun exposure to arms, legs or face (without sunscreen) per day is adequate for most people. Always remember to be sun smart and avoid prolonged unprotected exposure when UV exposure is greatest.

Vitamin D can also be provided by foods such as fortified milk, oily fish and eggs although these amounts are small and inadequate to maintain levels. If you’re unable to maintain your Vitamin D levels, your dietitian can advise you on a suitable Vitamin D supplement.


It’s your move

We all know that exercise is good for you but did you know that your bones become stronger when a certain amount of impact is placed on them? Think of it like creating a diamond; it takes time (from being consistent) and pressure (from exercise) to compact materials to create priceless and virtually indestructible diamonds (to build strong bones).To optimise your bone health and prevent fractures from falls, a minimum of 30 minutes of weight bearing or resistance training activities is recommended at least 3 times per week.

Weight bearing exercises are done while on your feet so you bear your own weight. Brisk walking, jogging, netball, tennis, dancing and impact aerobics are all good activities. The greater the impact on the bone will result in a greater capacity to maintain and build muscle, so aerobics will put more pressure on bone than walking. Resistance training uses specific weights or equipment that progressively becomes more challenging over time.

Another benefit of exercise is that it will support strong muscles that can assist your posture and increase your reflexes; things you need to help prevent a fall in the first place!

Look for ways to improve your diet and lifestyle so you can share the joys of life with those special people around you!


Do you have osteoporosis? How do you improve your symptoms? Or are you on top of your bone health? What do you do? Tell us below.


Melanie McGrice

Melanie McGrice is one of Australia’s best known dietitians. She is a highly respected author and health presenter on nutrition and dietary issues - and a lover of great food! Join her free nutrition and wellbeing network at www.melaniemcgrice.com.au

  1. I had a big fall yesterday fortunately no breaks just a bit sore and black and blue down one side but other than that back digging in the garden today!

    9 REPLY
    • I am so sorry Libby, falls shake you up more so as we get older, when were kids we bounced and kept on playing but if fall today, it really distresses me..take it easy

    • Glad you are okay. I think it is quite often more the fright we get rather than the injuries that is worse. When I have a fall I tend to avoid that area forever. I can the shakes up whenever I approach an area where I have had a fall.

    • Yea that would be great!! I’ve osteoporosis as well on long term meds now. Have been for a few years. Can’t bear the thought of us getting snow and having a tumble. 🙁 xxx

    • Really? You are a Yorkshire girl and i was told NO Yorkshire girl has a problem with her bones!!!!
      Seriously sorry to hear that Lyn see you in June! We can have a few wines and discuss

    • Ooh that will be lovely.will be nice to have a family get together and have several bottles of plonk!! Yes obviously these two Yorkshire girls do!!! Always exceptions to the rules!!! Xx

  2. ” …in the large Harvard studies of male health professionals and female nurses, individuals who drank one glass of milk (or less) per week were at no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than were those who drank two or more glasses per week. When researchers combined the data from the Harvard studies with other large prospective studies, they still found no association between calcium intake and fracture risk. Also, the combined results of randomized trials that compared calcium supplements with a placebo showed that calcium supplements did not protect against fractures of the hip or other bones. Moreover, there was some suggestion that calcium supplements taken without vitamin D might even increase the risk of hip fractures. A 2014 study also showed that higher milk consumption during teenage years was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in older adults.”


    1 REPLY
  3. Had a small fall from a roof 13 months ago. 6 weeks of hospital for compound fracture plus rehab. Biggest problem, buggerising my brain.

    1 REPLY
    • I don’t think any fall from a roof is ‘small’ Keith.

  4. Also if you are coeliac (cant eat wheat products in case I spelt it wrong) you are highly likely to get osteoporosis.

  5. Already have osteoporosis lower back the worse, am paying over $300 every six months for an injection that strengthens the outer layer of the bones which takes about two years to work.. Once I turn 70, the injection will be on the PBS scheme..

  6. I already have new knees

    1 REPLY
    • I have had 2 knee replacements,and have osteoporosis,,I find my really bad days are just before rain comes,I’m nearly always in pain,some days are worse than others

  7. Bone density test shows l am osteopenic..thought to be a precursor to osteoporosis. Therefore l now make sure l do weightbearing excercise..walking..every day, in sunshine! Another preventative measure is a good balanced diet . So much research is being done as fractures (especially hip) in the elderly is very costly .

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