IT is one of the most common long-term health conditions in Britain today.
But many people do not even know they are suffering from the brittle bone condition osteoporosis.
Million of Brits do not know they are suffering from osteoporosis[/caption]
Almost four million people in the UK have the condition where bones are so weak they can easily break — and three quarters of them are women.
And more than half of all menopausal women are suffering from the precursor to osteoporosis, called osteopenia, where bone mineral density declines.
Bone specialist Dr Nicky Keay, honorary clinical lecturer at University College London, told Sun on Sunday Health: “During childhood and adolescence, bones are still developing.
“You reach peak bone mass in your early 20s.
“With increasing age, you start to lose bone more quickly than you gain it.”
When we are young our bones are usually strong.
But as we age, we produce less collagen, the protein responsible for healthy joints and stretchy skin, leaving them weaker.
Osteoporosis can run in families, making some people genetically prone to it.
Lifestyle habits and conditions earlier in life can also increase risk levels.
These include smoking, excessive alcohol, eating disorders, thyroid problems and medications such as long-term steroid use or anti-oestrogen medications following breast cancer.
Getting shorter, stooped posture and frequent aches are also indicators that your bones may not be healthy.
A scan to assess bone mineral density can be a good indicator of bone health.
Dr Keay, who is also the author of Hormones, Health And Human Potential, said that bone health is important but often ignored.
She added: “Your skeleton is made up of bones that provide your body with support, structure, stability and protection for vital organs. But bones have other functions, too.
“They interact with muscles to enable movement and they store vital minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which help keep you healthy.
“Some long bones contain marrow in which new blood cells are made to transport oxygen and fight illness.”
Rob Hobson, who is a consultant and sports nutritionist with Healthspan, says that even if you have not looked after your bone health during your younger years, there are things that can be done to try to protect them later in life.
He said: “As with most health conditions, a healthy lifestyle with a varied diet, good nutrition and regular exercise is advised to help avoid worsening signs.
“In particular, vitamin D and calcium supplements, as well as weight-bearing exercises, can help with prevention.
“And either supplements or HRT, used to manage symptoms of the menopause, can protect against development.
“Osteopenia usually has no symptoms and is frequently not detected unless a person has a bone density test or experienced localised bone pain and weakness in an area of a broken bone.”
Here Dr Keay gives her guide to bone health through the decades . .
BONE HEALTH AS YOU AGE
BONE health should remain relatively stable.
But over-exercising, poor nutrition, stress and not getting enough sleep can all disrupt the hormone networks involved in producing oestradiol, the hormone which keeps them strong.
Pregnancy, when oestrogen levels are high, is a good boost.
In this age group, concentrate on regular strength-building exercise, eating a balanced diet, taking vitamin D and avoiding fizzy, sugary, soft drinks to keep sugar levels stable.
Hormone production will start to gradually decline, including with oestrogen and its most active form oestradiol, resulting in a 0.5 per cent annual loss in bone mass density.
Concentrate on improve-ments to your diet, exercise and sleep routine, especially for women who are peri-menopausal. The average age of menopause among British women is 51.
Keep to a healthy weight and consider HRT to bring hormone levels up and mitigate the effects on your bones.
Eat fresh vegetables and fruit, oily fish and healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and olive oil, and full-fat milk.
Reduced physical activity and a reduction in hormone levels are not good for your bone health.
Food absorption decreases and can mean deficiencies in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate, which contribute to bone health.
According to Age UK, more than half of adults this age take at least one prescribed medication and these can also impact the body’s ability to absorb vital minerals and nutrients.
Vitamin D is more important than ever in this age group, as are support supplements tailored for the over-60s.