Keep your bones healthy this winter, says Mater Private

The icy weather brings with it the danger of falling and for those of us getting older cracked and broken bones are a frequent threat. Read on to learn how to keep your bones healthy this winter.

Winter is approaching and those of us getting a little older may find ourselves concerned with the forthcoming Christmas shopping outings to buy presents for our children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces.

Parents will have probably spent many years ensuring their children have the best start in life, which would have included healthy lifestyles, a proper diet and plenty of exercise, all very important for bones and joints.

Unfortunately, during one of these outings on an icy winter morning the inevitable fall happens and to our dismay we discover our bones can’t withstand these minor accidents anymore. Before we know it, we are at the emergency department with the consultant pointing to an X-ray of our fractured wrist, hip or ankle.

It’s important to take time to consider our own needs and in particular our bone and joint health.

Bones have many functions including providing structure, keeping us upright, anchoring muscles and they store vital calcium.

While we are conscientiously building strong and healthy bones during childhood we can also take steps during our later years to support bone health.

Why is bone health important?

When you’re young, your body grows new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone density increases. Most of us will have reached our peak bone strength at the end of our 20s and early 30s. After that, the rate our bodies make new bone is slower than the rate we lose old bone.

Factors that decide how healthy our bones are include the amount of calcium in our diet and physical activity. People who have lower than recommended calcium intake and are physically inactive have a higher risk of conditions like osteoporosis, while those who are overweight have certain genetic traits, or can get an injury or develop osteoarthritis.

It is recommended that we should consume about 1,000mg a day of calcium in our diets or as a supplement and slightly higher if you are a woman over 50 years or a man over 70 years. Your family doctor can help you calculate how much you may need. Women need slightly more calcium earlier because their bones are less dense and bone loss increases significantly at menopause due to falling hormone levels.

Good sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, salmon, canned sardines, Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds. Don’t forget your body requires a certain level of vitamin D to absorb calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, egg yolks, and fortified milk.

Sunlight also contributes to the body’s production of vitamin D.

At the Mater Private Hospital Cork, there is a team of experienced specialist orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists, radiographers and nurses who will evaluate and treat conditions relating to bone and joint health, including fractures.

Every day patients present at the emergency department after a fall or a knock with injuries that require X-rays, plaster of paris or in some cases the expert operative care of our trauma surgeons.

It is also worth recognising that painful swollen joints, particularly the hip and knee, that don’t settle down and are associated with stiffness and a loss of flexibility, can be signs of osteoarthritis. If you have these symptoms or are worried about your risks then discuss them with your family doctor and if necessary they can refer you to a specialist orthopaedic surgeon. Should joint replacement (arthroplasty) surgery be necessary, the orthopaedic team at the Mater Private Cork, routinely replace hip, knee, and shoulder joints and the rehabilitation team deliver an enhanced recovery programme to get you back on your feet in a few days.

  • 021 601 3200


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