By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
While many of us take great care of our skin, our muscles, our minds – few realise how important it is to care for our bones, at all stages if life. Your skeleton provides the whole structure of your body, protecting your vital organs and anchoring muscles where they need to be, and there is a lot we can do to keep our bones strong and healthy.
From the moment you’re born, your bones are constantly changing: new bone is made and old bone is broken down. Until the age of thirty, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old, causing your bone mass to increase. As you get older however, you begin to lose more than you gain, and your bone mass slowly decreases over time.
That said, there is much we can do along the way to improve our bone mass – starting with our calcium intake. Research shows that calcium deficiency leads to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. However, you can boost your calcium levels by eating a wide range of foods including dairy products, almonds, green vegetables such as broccoli and kale, and soy products like tofu. Supplements such as Caltrate, Viactiv and Nature’s Bounty (or Nature’s Truth) Calcium tablets can be used if and when your diet may be insufficient.
Vitamin D is also needed to allow calcium be absorbed. You can increase your vitamin D intake with food such as oily fish like salmon and tuna, as well as mushrooms, eggs and fortified foods like cereal. Sunlight contributes to the production of Vitamin D too, so do try to get out and about when the sun decides to shine!
Lesser known, but equally important, Vitamin K2, particularly MK-4 and MK-7, supports bone health by modifying osteocalcin, a protein involved in bone formation. You can find MK-4 in liver and eggs, while Mk-7 is found in fermented food like cheese, miso and sauerkraut – as well as supplements such as Smarty Pants Organics vitamins. There are formulas specific for men, women, pregnancy, kids and toddlers. There are also a wealth of combined supplements available like Rainbow Light, Centrum and One-A-Day, which combine nutrients and vitamins to give your bones everything they need in one quick and easy capsule.
Bones are made from 50% protein so it’s good to make sure foods such as meat, dairy, beans and pulses form a good proportion of your diet – especially as you get older. Studies have shown that in postmenopausal women, higher protein intake is linked to a lower risk of forearm fractures and significantly higher bone density in the hip, spine and total body. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs, have great benefits too: people who are physically active have a much lower risk of bones problems.
Those with low bone density may be suffering from osteoporosis, a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. If you are concerned about osteoporosis, do speak to your GP as soon as possible. In addition to lifestyle options, there are also medications that can strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures, and your GP can give advice on the best treatment for you. If you have any questions about bone health, your GP or indeed your pharmacist will be happy to help.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.