Osteoporosis: What You Can Do to Prevent It

It's not too late to take action

Photograph by Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

You’ve been seeing "Got Milk?" ads for years, and you know you need a hearty dose of calcium every day, but you rarely make sure you’re following through. Does that sound like you?

With each passing year, you become more susceptible to osteoporosis, a condition that can wreak havoc on your livelihood, cause debilitating fractures or even lead to breaking bones. Nearly 90 percent of women over the age of 75 have osteoporosis, according to the American Medical Association, and with the prevalence of fad diets and poor eating habits, the age of onset may continue to drop. Read on to learn how to protect yourself from the so-called "silent disease.” It’s a little more complicated than just drinking your milk.

When Do I Start Thinking About It?

“It’s never too early to start preventative measures for osteoporosis,” says New York-based registered dietitian Samantha Heller. “Children and teens should be consuming foods with calcium and vitamin D, and engaging in regular, weight-bearing exercise. And for women, osteoporosis is especially concerning now that so many people are on diets where they’re restricting calories and then overexercising.” This leaves you prone to osteoporosis breaks, she says, due to the combination of a lack of nutrients and added stress on weakened bones.

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And although you should ideally start great habits as early as possible, focusing on it in your 40s is also important. “Women reach peak bone mass by the age of 30,” says Dr. Melina Jampolis, an internist and physician nutrition specialist based in California. “They really need to think about prevention as estrogen levels start dropping off in their mid-40s, especially if they have a family history or risk factors.”

Am I at Risk?

Just being a woman is a major risk factor, but there are many more factors to consider. “Being a woman; age; genetics; having a thin or small build; being of Caucasian, European and Asian descent; smokers; inactivity and poor dietary habits are all major risk factors,” Jampolis says.

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