Bone tissue wears down and regenerates throughout your life. It’s a natural process to keep bones healthy and strong. Without this constant regrowth bones become brittle and easy to fracture – a debilitating condition called osteoporosis.
Any bones can be affected, but with so many in your feet, ankles and lower legs this condition can significantly affect your ability to walk.
Who Is at Risk of Osteoporosis?
Anyone can be affected but poor diet and lack of exercise are major factors. Senior ladies are particularly susceptible as menopause results in a huge drop in oestrogen levels – a hormone essential for good bone health.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any in the early stages. The first sign is usually when you sustain a fracture, and this is too easy to do if you have osteoporosis. Simply dropping something on your foot or bumping into a door can be enough to cause a break.
Fortunately, some common-sense measures should help keep osteoporosis at bay.
Sort Out Your Diet
Certain proteins and minerals work together to keep your bones healthy, so be sure to include something from each section in your diet.
Calcium: This is the basic ingredient of good bone health. It helps maintain strength and is essential for repair and new growth.
Cheese, yoghurt and milk are rich in calcium, but try to stick to low-fat versions (preferably, ones with low sugar content). Salmon, tofu, beans, lentils and dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spring greens are all great sources of calcium.
Vitamin D: Without this, your body can’t absorb calcium properly so the two go hand in hand. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight so it’s good to get outside every day if possible.
Of course, if you live in the UK the sun is often nowhere to be seen, but you can increase vitamin D in your diet instead. Sardines, salmon and mackerel are perfect, plus red meat, egg yolks and liver. Nut milk and some spreads are fortified with extra vitamin D as well.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the UK – as an extra precaution you could consider taking a supplement, but always check with your doctor before taking anything new.
Vitamin K: This is needed to help vitamin D work properly. Together they allow bones to maintain good calcium levels and aid new bone formation. Soya beans, cheese and eggs are all good sources of vitamin K.
Magnesium: This is another vital mineral that enhances the absorption of calcium. Bananas, almonds, spinach and dark chocolate are all good sources of magnesium.
Zinc: You don’t need a lot of this, but it certainly helps. Spinach, pumpkin seeds and beef are all rich in zinc.
Protein: Poultry, beef, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu and dairy products (or non-dairy alternatives) are all essential for good bone density. Of course, it’s not good to have too much of any one thing, so always aim for balance and variety.
Exercise: The other essential component of good health. Weight-bearing exercises are ideal for bone strength. Weight training or body-weight exercises work well and low-impact activities like walking, playing tennis or simply walking up stairs will all benefit your health.
Yoga and pilates improve core strength and flexibility whilst tai chi is an excellent and gentle way to maintain good balance – vital to avoid harmful falls.
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