As we get older, our risk of developing chronic disease like osteoporosis and arthritis increases. Adopting healthier lifestyle habits can decrease that risk and help ensure a higher quality of life for years to come.
Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods can help adults promote their overall health and reduce their risk of disease. Some of the lesser well know diseases that can affect our health as we age include arthritis and osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis – meaning ‘porous bone’ – results in increased loss in bone mass and strength. It is asymptomatic (presenting no symptoms at first) and so often remains undiscovered until weakened bones result in painful fractures.
Risk factors include:
- Gender: women are more likely to get it than men. They have smaller bones and are affected by the change in hormone levels after the menopause which impact on bone health
- Ethnicity: Caucasian and Asian women are at higher risk than men and other ethnicities
- Family history
- Long-term use of certain medications such as corticosteroids
- Heavy drinking and smoking
There is no ideal treatment for osteoporosis so prevention is extremely important. A healthy diet and lifestyle are key. Consider the following:
- Eat foods high in calcium. Getting enough calcium throughout your life helps to build and keep strong bones. Excellent sources of calcium are milk and dairy products, fish including canned fish with bones like salmon and sardines; dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards and broccoli; orange juice; and breads made with calcium-fortified flour.
- Vitamin D supports the bones, is good for the muscles, helps to maintain normal teeth and helps the immune system. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium so they work well together. Being out in the sun, without sunscreen, for a total of about 20 minutes every day helps most people’s bodies make enough vitamin D. However, in the winter months, the position of the sun makes absorption almost impossible. During the winter, the best source of vitamin D would be through a supplement. A daily supplement of 10 micrograms is recommended for anyone over the age of 65. You can also get a small amount of vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish like salmon, cereal and milk fortified with vitamin D. For more information on vitamin D, speak to your GP and read this factsheet.
- Establish a regular exercise routine. Weight-bearing exercises are best for preventing osteoporosis, plus exercise makes bones and muscles stronger. Walking, jogging, playing tennis and dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises. In addition, strength and balance exercises may help you avoid falls, decreasing your chance of breaking a bone. Increasing physical activity is a priority for healthier ageing. You can split 30 minutes up across the day plus frequent gentle exercise is said to increase production of the “happiness hormone” serotonin.
The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership
The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership is offering a special cookery session as part of the Older People’s Festival. For more information, please visit: http://bhfood.org.uk/events/a-taste-of-cooking-inspiration/ .
If you’d like to find out more about healthy eating, please visit The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership at http://bhfood.org.uk/