Women in their fifties are at risk of bone loss, as the reduction of oestrogen that typically occurs during menopause is one of the strongest risk factors for developing osteoporosis. “With the loss of oestrogen support, bone breakdown increases, which means bone loss occurs and increases the chance of breaking bones,” Professor Ebeling says.
“Only 20 per cent of people with broken bones due to osteoporosis are being treated or investigated for it,” he adds, suggesting talking to your GP about ways to lower the odds. “Maybe you’ve already had a broken bone, your mum fractured her hip, or perhaps you used to smoke or drink more than two serves of alcohol a day. Whatever the situation, it’s possible to shift your risk of osteoporosis if you know your bone status,” he says.
“If you were physically active throughout your life, you’ll now notice how much it will help you maintain your bone density, particularly in the hip area. But even if exercise wasn’t your thing, you can still start at any time,” Professor Ebeling says. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to high-impact weight-bearing exercise three days a week. “Resistance training, such as lifting weights, is also wise,” he suggests.
Engaging in healthy eating habits now may protect you from developing osteoporosis later in your life. “In your fifties, have at least three serves of calcium-containing foods per day,” Professor Ebeling says.
Bone deterioration continues in your sixties, but at a slower rate than during menopause.
People joke about starting to shrink around this time, but the fact is you should have your height measured once a year.
Continue exercising three times a week. “The best forms of high-impact exercise for bone health include jogging and tennis,” Professor Ebeling says. If you’re not that sporty, make sure you’re still getting up and about, taking the stairs when you can. It’s also a good idea to see your GP for back-strengthening exercises to lower your risk of spinal fractures.
Women 60-plus require three serves of calcium-rich foods to maintain the recommended 1300mg a day. If you fall short, consider taking a supplement, and eat lean protein at each meal, because a diet that’s lacking in either calcium or protein is associated with a greater loss of bone mass.
A loss of muscle mass during this decade leads to reduced strength and impaired reflexes as well as a greater risk of broken bones.
Whether or not you’ve previously broken a bone, see your GP to discuss fracture prevention. Ask to have your vitamin D levels tested and for a review of your existing medical conditions, lifestyle habits and regular medications, both over-the-counter and prescription.
“While brisk walking is excellent, it isn’t enough on its own,” Professor Ebeling says. “You also need to do weight-bearing exercises and activities that challenge you.”
Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables is absolutely vital in your seventies.