I recently read a newspaper article that had some pretty sobering facts about bone fractures in older Australians (http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/health/discharged-from-hospital-admitted-to-aged-care-how-hip-fractures-strip-australians-of-independence-20170915-gyi4vo.html).
* Five per cent of patients over 50 years who break a hip will die in hospital
* Up to 25 per cent will die within the year as a direct result of their hip fracture
* More than one in 10 patients over 50 years with a hip fracture will be admitted to an aged care facility as a result of their hip fracture
The co-chair of the Australian and New Zealand Hip Fracture Registry, who produced the audit from which this article was based, noted "Most people never go back to their previous level of function. It hugely impacts their quality of life."
So, something we want to avoid, right?
But what has this got to do with nutrition, and why am I mentioning it on this blog?
Well, the simple fact is that the majority of people I see in my practice are falling short of the recommended amount of calcium each day. And, as you probably know, calcium helps to keep our bones strong, and can assist us in older age to prevent the consequences we see in the article above.
I am always at my kids to be getting a good source of calcium each day- in our house this is generally in the form of cow's milk and milk products like cheese and yoghurt (more on that in a minute). The reason I am super-keen for my kids to get a good supply of calcium is that their bones are still growing and being made strong and the more calcium they can store in their bones now the stronger bones they will have in their older age.
Somewhere around the age of 25-30 years, we reach our 'peak bone density' meaning our bones are as strong as they will possibly be. So it is really important to ensure that our children, adolescents and young adults have a good steady supply of calcium.
Now pay attention to this bit, because a lot of people miss this point- if we get slack about making sure we get a good source of calcium as we get older, our body starts removing calcium from our bones to do the other important things that it needs to do- like maintaining our heart contractions (a pretty important thing to prioritise!) And the more calcium that is taken from our bones to do these other important tasks in the body, the weaker our bones become, ultimately leading to a greater risk of the outcomes noted in the article above.
So, it is really important to make sure that you get a good source of calcium all through your life, not just as your bones are developing. Check these links to see how many serves of dairy or dairy alternatives you should be aiming for each day- it does vary by age and sex
for children and adolescents
Cow's milk and cow's milk products are the best source of easily absorbed calcium. But what if you are allergic to cow's milk/have lactose intolerance/hate the taste of it/don't want to drink it for ethical reasons?
There are other foods that provide calcium, including fortified plant-based milks (check that it has 100mg of calcium added per 100ml), green leafy vegetables, hard tofu, tinned pink salmon (with the bones), sardines dried apricots, almonds etc.
Or if you have lactose intolerance you can have lactose-free cow's milk which has just as much calcium as normal cow's milk.
And if you think you are not going to be able to get the required amount of calcium per day, it's OK to have a supplement- have a chat to a dietitian or GP about which one they recommend for you.
So, raise your (milk-filled) glass and say cheers to strong bones for life!