What else can I do for my bones?
Keep a healthy body weight
Aim to keep your body weight in the range that is appropriate for you, as being underweight or overweight can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. You can find out your appropriate weight by using the calculator opposite. Talk to the practice nurse at your doctor’s surgery if you need help with this.
Interestingly, if you are a woman, you carry on producing small amounts of the hormone oestrogen in the fatty layers under your skin after the menopause. And, of course, ensuring you aren’t too thin helps to provide some ‘padding’ if you do fall over. Remember, however, that being overweight isn’t helpful – it increases your fracture risk as well as your risk of developing many other medical conditions.
How to calculate your BMI
Calculating your own BMI is very easy if you know your height and weight:
1.Measure your height in metres (h) and multiply the figure by itself
2. Measure your weight (w) in kilograms
3. Divide your weight by the number you calculated in step 1 (your height squared) – i.e. BMI = w/(h x h)
So if, for example, you are 1.6m tall and weigh 60kg, your body mass index is 23.4:
1. Your height is 1.6m so multiply 1.6 by 1.6 to give 2.56
2. Your weight is 60kg
3. BMI = 60 / 2.56 = 23.4
Free yourself from smoking
Smoking is well known to have an adverse effect on general health. It has been shown to slow down the work of the bone-building cells, osteoblasts. Smoking may also result in an earlier menopause in women and can increase your risk of a broken hip later in life. The good news is that fracture risk is reduced in those who give up smoking.
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Be sensible about your alcohol intake
Excessive alcohol consumption appears to be a significant risk factor for osteoporosis and fractures. Even minor alcohol intoxication is associated with an increase in falls if you are older, which can result in breaking a bone. You should try not to exceed the government’s recommended limit, which says men should drink no more than three to four units of alcohol a day and women should drink no more than two to three units a day.*
* UK government advice has recently changed, with men and women advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol in a week and always spread them over the course of at least 3 or 4 days - it’s best not to save up units and drink them all in one go and also to make sure you have alcohol free days. This guidance is out for consultation until April 2016. Read more on NHS Choices
How much is a unit of alcohol?
In the UK, one unit is equal to 8g of alcohol. As a rough guide, the following drinks contain one unit of alcohol:
- a single pub measure (25ml) of whisky, gin or brandy
- half a pint of beer or cider
- a quarter of a pint of super-strength beer or cider
- one small glass (125ml) of table wine contains one and a half units.
As one small glass (125ml) of table wine is one and a half units the upper daily limit for women is two small glasses and the limit for men is around two and a half glasses. Remember, pubs and restaurants often use larger measures than this.
The good news is that all the healthy lifestyle choices described here will not only be good for your bones but will also reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and other medical conditions.