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Keywords:

  • osteoporosis;
  • lifestyle factors;
  • older women;
  • nursing;
  • public health;
  • health promotion

Background.  It is accepted practice to recommend a calcium-rich diet, weight-bearing exercise, cessation of smoking and limited alcohol intake to promote bone health. Although one in three women over 50 years old are at risk of osteoporosis, the lifestyle practices of older women in Scotland are not well documented.

Aim.  To investigate the lifestyle practices of a group of older women who had received lifestyle advice a year previously whilst participating in research identifying the individual risk of osteoporosis.

Methods.  A mainly quantitative approach was taken from the perspective of the empirical–analytical paradigm. A descriptive survey research design was used and the primary method of data collection was postal questionnaire. Additional qualitative data obtained from a telephone interview of a small number of respondents were content analysed.

Findings.  The questionnaire was sent to 320 women. The response rate was 92·5% (n = 296). The majority of women were non-smokers, had no alcohol problems and were participating in regular weight-bearing exercise. However, most had not been taking a calcium-rich diet in the previous year, and only 21·2% (n = 58) had changed their diet following identification of risk of osteoporosis.

Conclusion.  The findings in relation to diet, smoking, exercise and alcohol were supported by previous research. We recommend that further research with larger samples in the United Kingdom explores the reasons why older women do not have adequate calcium intake. A statistically significant finding was that women at high risk of osteoporosis were the least likely to have made changes in lifestyles. Further research is required to address the information needs and lifestyle practices of older women who are at high risk of osteoporosis.