Mary How Trust

Keeping your bones strong

Osteoporosis makes bones thin and liable to break. It’s a silent condition – you won’t know it is happening. So it’s very important to be aware of what you can do to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Guide To Osteoporosis & How To Keep Your Bones Strong:


Who Is At Risk From Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis affects both women and men. Women are more at risk because the hormone changes that occur in the menopause directly affect bone density. Read more about the menopause here.

While osteoporosis is more common in older people, it can affect younger people too.  Adults start to lose bone density from the age of about 35.

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Did You Know..?

Almost 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis. Few people know they have it until they break a bone.


The 7 Main Risk Factors

  1. Family history – especially if a parent or sibling has it, or if you are Caucasian, Asian or have a thin frame.
  2. Eating habits – read our great advice on bone-friendly eating below.
  3. Smoking – just say no!
  4. Lack of exercise – our exercise tips below will help you lead a more active life.
  5. Medications – if you are at risk from osteoporosis, it’s important to avoid certain prescribed drugs.  If you have any queries, please ask your GP.
  6. History of missed periods – for example, in young women with eating disorders.
  7. Early menopause – before the age of 45.

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Eat A Calcium-Rich Diet

One of the most important things you can do to guard against osteoporosis is to have plenty of calcium in your diet. The recommended daily amounts of calcium are:

  • For women before menopause, and for men: 700mg of calcium each day. That’s 3-4 servings of calcium-rich foods a day.
  • For women after menopause, and for pregnant/nursing women: you’ll need 1200-1250mg of calcium a day. That’s 5-6 servings of calcium-rich foods a day.

This Food Fact Sheet from the BDA includes a helpful at-a-glance guide to check if you're getting enough calcium in your diet.

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4 Top Tips For Bone-Friendly Eating

Follow these tasty tips to keep osteoporosis at bay:

  1. Eat plenty of foods high in calcium, including:
    • Vegetables, especially broccoli and kale
    • Fruits, including oranges and tangerines, dried apricots and kiwis
    • Pulses
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Dairy (choosing low- or no- fat options if possible)
  2. Limit your intake of caffeine, carbonated drinks and alcohol
    • Carbonated drinks actually decrease your absorption of calcium. So ditch the can of soda and switch to water, diluted fruit juice or herbal teas.
  3. The more animal protein you eat, the more calcium you need.
    • Meat, fish and eggs are acid-forming. The body neutralizes this with its reserves of sodium, but when these are used up, calcium is taken from the bones.
  4. Take calcium supplements as advised by your GP if you feel your diet lacks calcium.

Our Healthy Eating page is packed with scrumptious suggestions for eating well.

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Take Plenty Of Weight-Bearing Physical Activity

All exercise is great for your health, but to guard against osteoporosis you need to make sure you take weight-bearing exercise.

This means carrying your body weight in activities such as: jogging, brisk walking, tennis, dancing, weight training in the gym, and low-to-high intensity workouts.

Yoga and tai chi are also good for bone density. Cycling and swimming don't count as weight-bearing exercise - but they're both great for your general health and fitness.

Read our helpful guide to Getting Active .

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Don't Smoke

Smoking damages your health in a vast number of ways, and causes a long list of life-threatening illnesses including cancer, heart disease and stroke.

When you smoke you'll also damage your bone health.

And if you smoke before you’re 30 you’ll even prevent your body from developing maximum bone mass. Then, as you age, smoking will speed up bone loss.

Today is the day to stub out your last cigarette!

Our Quit Smoking page is packed with helpful tips and advice. Good luck! 

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Get Outside

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, and nearly all of our vitamin D comes from sunlight.

If you’re at risk of osteoporosis, aim for at least 15-30 minutes per day. Why not combine this with your daily exercise for maximum benefit!

You may need to take a vitamin D supplement if you’re elderly or housebound.

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Women: Ask Your GP About HRT

If you’re at risk of osteoporosis and going through the menopause, ask your GP about HRT or other medication.

Hormone replacement therapy can help guard against the bone loss associated with menopause. Taking HRT does carry some risks, and research into these is ongoing. Your GP will be able to weigh up the benefits and risks in your case.

There are also other preventative treatments against osteoporosis that your GP can prescribe.

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In Summary

At your health screening, your Mary How Trust nurse will discuss osteoporosis with you in the light of your age, medical and family history, and lifestyle. She may recommend further investigations by your GP (for example, bone density scans).

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