Osteoporosis and the benefits of sunshine

sunset

Last week included the longest day of the year and the hottest summer solstice for decades, with Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park packed with sun bathers (including us). But is all this sun  good for us?

Well in moderation, yes. Here’s why.

Vitamin D is manufactured in the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight, particularly UVB rays. We need vitamin D for bone health and there is increasing evidence that more and more of us in the northern hemisphere lack vitamin D by not getting enough sunlight!

Osteoporosis, or “brittle bones” as it has traditionally been called, is a very common condition that usually affects elderly people and women more than men, due to the hormonal changes women experience post menopause. It literally translates as “porous bone”.

In osteoporotic bone cells, there are large spaces between cells giving a honey comb appearance. This influences bone strength and weakens them making them more susceptible to breaks or fractures. Osteopenia is often referred to a pre-curser to osteoporosis and people suffering from this are often encouraged to take vitamin D supplements.

Here are a few tips for maintaining healthy bones:

wimbledon commonDiet

Diet is another effective way of increasing vitamin D intake, recommended foods include dairy produce, almonds, green veg, fish and avoiding excess alcohol, caffeinated and fizzy drinks.

Exercise

Light impact exercise is a terrific way of maintaining bone health. Whilst swimming and cycling are fantastic cardio exercises, neither work to strengthen bones. Dancing, walking, standing Pilates and yoga exercises, all apply load to the bones and assist in improving bone strength.

Medication

Many people also take medication for their osteoporosis, this needs to be monitored by your doctor as there can sometime be side effects with long term use.

Sun

There is a huge amount of research regarding how long one should expose themselves to sunlight, the NHS choices website suggests most of us can make enough vitamin D with daily sun exposure for short periods without sunscreen between 11am and 3pm, but burning must be avoided!  Look at their website for more recommendations regarding sun exposure.

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