Bone Health for Every Age

When you hear the words “bone density” and “osteoporosis” members of the elderly age group are most likely the ones to cross your mind.

While health problems associated with our bones do set in with age, it’s how we care for them in our younger years that affect our mobility later in life.

So to keep from ever being described as frail, or suffering from osteoporosis, read on to learn what our bones need and how to care for them at every age.


Bone Health

 Bones Changes Through the Years

Childhood and Adolescence

Even though you’ve ascended the painful growing years, there’s a reason mom forced you to finish your glass of milk, so if you’ve got little ones, listen up.

Children who don’t receive enough calcium in their diets are at risk for developing rickets (a case of having soft bones), which can lead to osteoporosis later. And adequate calcium consumption throughout the teen years is just as crucial since the body produces half of the bone mass the body will ever have at this time.

Another key element to fostering bone health in our kids is ensuring they receive enough Vitamin D, which assists in calcium absorption in to the bones.

 Your 20s and 30s

 Thirty is the magical age where bones have hit their peak. There’s not much you can do to increase the mass of your bones, and osteoporosis becomes a matter of how rapidly you start to lose bone mass compared to the mass you gain. For women who are petite and have a small frame, this is why it is crucial to build up your bone mass in your twenties so your body has excess to draw on as the loss occurs in the next decades.

To give some real life perspective, my mother started to have bone density issues in her mid-forties and by 50 she had osteoporosis. My mom has always hated dairy (I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed her drink milk), she barely stands five feet tall and has never weighed more than 110 pounds. The conclusion here: prevention is everything.

Your 40s and 50s

Your forties and fifties bring on a whole new perspective on your health. Childbearing years are rounding out, maintaining and improving your health is a main focus now that your body chemistry has changed with age, and then there’s menopause. Losing estrogen from menopause causes quicker bone breakdown outpacing the building of new bone due to low hormone levels.

Not to mention this is the time where family history makes itself apparent if you didn’t take preventative action in your younger years, but it’s never too late. Incorporating the tips below will be beneficial no matter what time you start, although the earlier the better.

How to Protect and Care for Your Bones

Exercise for a Healthy Weight and Strength

No surprise here, exercise will keep your bones strong as well as improve every other function of your body and your overall health. Beyond just saying exercise, specifically weight-bearing exercises such as walking or jogging as well as strength training are going to benefit your bones.

Exercise that involves building muscle mass and maintaining a healthy weight will build strength, which keeps you from losing bone mass faster than you gain it. The balance and coordination that results from exercise will leave you less susceptible to dangerous falls as you age.

Limit Alcohol and Nix Tobacco

A study in the journal Menopause, states that moderate alcohol consumption of one to two drinks per day may help to prevent bone loss in women in their fifties and older. However, having more than one to two drinks per day could interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium properly resulting in faster bone loss.

Smoking slows down the body’s processes including the cells that contribute to building bones leaving them weak and brittle as time progresses.

Enough Calcium and Vitamin D

Although you don’t need to chug your milk like you did as a kid, getting your proper calcium and Vitamin D to aid in calcium absorption is key to bone health.

I spend my fair share of time in the sun being a Floridian, not to mention I love foods like salmon, cheese and eggs, which are Vitamin D rich, but calcium is more of a struggle. I take a daily calcium supplement to make sure I get my daily value.

However, foods such as spinach and kale are great sources of calcium, so if you’re not a fan of dairy, or you’re lactose intolerant, there are a few avenues you can take.

Being informed

 Sometimes health issues, such as osteoporosis or low bone density, are going to happen despite our efforts. This could be due to illness, for example, many cancer treatments leach bone mass, or family history, but the most important thing to do is consult your doctor on the best method for your body.

Some women, such as my mom, are prescribed calcium medications to prevent further bone loss, while other women may go the route of hormone therapy. Everyone’s path to building and maintaining a healthy body is different, but it’s our hope that you can all glean insight on how to live your healthiest life no matter what stage you’re at.

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.