Simple Steps for Stronger Bones

woman at the gymIt's never too early to start thinking about your bone health. One in two women over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime. Osteoporosis is a disease that results in low bone mass, or density, which causes bones to become weak and fragile and more likely to break.

Bones are living, growing tissue. They are continually broken down and rebuilt (called remodeling). About 85 to 90 percent of bone mass is acquired by age 18 in women, with bone loss beginning around age 30 and progressing over the years. Estrogen facilitates the bone-building process, so during menopause when estrogen levels fall, the balance is tipped so bone breakdown outpaces buildup.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take now to help prevent bone loss or delay osteoporosis later in life.

Strengthening Your Bones

Eating a diet rich in calcium and getting regular physical activity are keys to maintaining and strengthening your bones. Nearly all of the calcium in your body is contained in your bones and teeth, adding strength and rigidity. Yet, despite the clear benefits of calcium, women around your age typically drink the least amount of milk; are more likely to skip breakfast—a meal that tends to naturally provide a good source of calcium and eat foods that have low density of calcium (e.g., fast food).

Skipping meals or replacing milk with nondairy drinks prevents calcium and nutrients from being properly absorbed. Alcohol consumption can deplete calcium in your bones, but a bigger threat to bone health is cigarette smoking.

A safe bet? Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet, exercise and look for ways to get more calcium.

Boosting Your Calcium Intake

How much is enough? Women's calcium needs change over time. Recommended calcium intake for women over 19 is 1000 mg a day, over 50, it's 1,200 mg, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Where Can You Find It?