Health & Wellness

Why the Time to Strengthen Your Bones Is Now

By on 05/09/2018

Bone density and osteoporosis are typically only thought about as adults age. But this timing is too late. That’s because about 90 percent of bone mass is developed by the time a person is 20 years old.

What you do early in life has a big impact on bone health as you get older. Children’s diets, activity levels and health habits can mean the difference between growing strong, healthy bones or having osteoporosis as adults, a condition that depletes bone mass and increases the risk of fractures.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation offers these facts about bone development:

  • The biggest bone-building years are during childhood through young adulthood.
  • Peak bone mass is reached during your late teens or early 20s. After that, bone mass decreases.
  • People who have a higher peak bone mass have a lower risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.

A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, as well as regular weight-bearing exercise, are the cornerstones of strenthening bones and preventing osteoporosis.

Here are four things parents can do to help kids build healthy bones:

  1. Encourage kids to eat foods with naturally-occurring calcium and vitamin D, including milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products. There are also non-dairy foods that contain these bone-building nutrients, such as canned salmon and sardines, eggs, leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds.
  2. Serve foods fortified with calcium and vitamin D, including milk, orange juice, cereal and yogurt.
  3. Find ways to help children be physically active for at least an hour a day.
  4. Stress the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, such as not smoking and drinking.

Millions of Americans will break a bone due to osteoporosis as they age. Although the effects of the disease typically affect older women, the time to start building healthier bones is during childhood.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 14, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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