June is National Osteoporosis Month and health experts from NHS Somerset are urging people to look after their bones by living well and eating well.

Osteoporosis is a disease where the inner honeycomb structure inside each bone becomes thinner and more fragile. It can affect any part of our body but the wrist, hip and spine are the most common areas.

Every bone in your body is alive - new cells are being created all the time to replace older ones - but when we are young this process tends to work faster enabling the skeleton to increase in density and strength.

The best way to build up your bones is by doing exercise and eating a healthy diet. During childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, when the skeleton is growing, you can 'bank' plenty of bone which puts the skeleton in a better position to hold out against the natural bone loss that occurs later in life.

Rachel Levenson, Associate Director of Nursing and Patient Safety for NHS Somerset said: "Your skeleton will grow stronger if you do regular weight-bearing exercise such as jogging, aerobics, tennis, dancing and brisk walking.

"As you get older, you may need to be careful of vigorous, high impact exercise but it's still very important to stay active and find something you enjoy doing. Swimming, gardening, walking or golf can all help reduce your risk of falling and breaking a bone," said Ms Levenson.

She added: "Eating a normal varied diet of bread, potatoes, fruit and vegetables, milk, meat, fish and foods containing fat and sugar will provide all you need to maintain a healthy skeleton. Our bodies contain 1kg of calcium, 99% of which is stored in our bones so we need to make sure our diet includes calcium-rich foods as well as other vitamins and minerals.

"If you can, try to give up smoking and reduce your alcohol intake. Don't let your weight drop too low - being overweight is not good for general health but being underweight increases the risk of broken bones when you fall.

Ms Levenson said: "Many older people fall in the home, so it is important to try and reduce the hazards that could cause you to trip and fall. Make sure you take your time using stairs and hold onto the rail. Tidy up any loose rugs or carpets, trailing wires, slippery floor surfaces and anything else that might cause you to fall over."

As you get older ask for help if feel you are at risk of falling or falling frequently. A referral to a physiotherapist may be helpful for advice about exercises to help with balance and co-ordination.

NHS Somerset