Bone health

As we age, bones become less dense. This is particularly the case after menopause, due to the drop in oestrogen our bodies produce.

This increases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become fragile and easily broken. One in three women over 60 years old will have a bone fracture at some stage due to osteoporosis.

To minimise the risks of osteoporosis, calcium-rich foods should be a main part of your diet. There is debate as to how much calcium is needed as many factors affect how much calcium actually gets absorbed from food. However, women over 50 eating an average Western diet should eat at least three serves per day of dairy or other foods from the following list:

  • hard cheese, 30g (1 thick slice)
  • yoghurt, 1 tub (200ml)
  • milk, regular, reduced fat or skim, 250ml (1 glass)
  • calcium-fortified soy/ rice/almond milk, 250ml (1 glass)
  • ricotta cheese, 120g (1/2 cup)
  • tinned salmon or sardines if bones are eaten, 100g (1/2 cup)
  • firm tofu, 100g
  • almonds, 100g (1 cup)
  • tahini (sesame paste), 100g (1/2 cup).

Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb and use calcium. It may also have a wider role in contributing to your immune system and heart health. Only 5 to 10 per cent of vitamin D comes from food such as fatty fish, liver, eggs, margarine and some milks. Most is made in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Spending most of your time indoors, having darker skin or wearing concealing clothing increases your risk of having a lower level of vitamin D.

The following amount of sun exposure is suggested for moderately fair-skinned people to help maintain adequate vitamin D levels while limiting the risk of skin cancer (keep in mind that the UVB rays that help make vitamin D don’t pass through glass):

  • in summer, six to seven minutes with arms uncovered at mid-morning or mid-afternoon
  • in winter, seven minutes at noon in the northern states of Australia, or up to 30 minutes in the southern states.

People with dark skin may need three to six times more exposure as their skin pigment reduces UV light absorption.


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