Stronger Bones—No Matter Your Age!

Whether you’re 35 or 75, there is plenty you can do to protect against fractures.

Karen Asp
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Here’s what’s happening to your bones—and what you can do to stay strong.

Ages 20 to 34
What’s happening to your bones: In your 20s, your bones are still growing. By age 30, you achieve peak bone mass, meaning your bones have reached their maximum strength and density, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Stay-strong strategy: Make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D and exercising regularly. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that women 50 and younger aim for 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Dairy is the main source of calcium, but the nutrient is also found in seafood, spinach and broccoli. Also, be sure to consume 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily, since it helps your body absorb calcium. Good sources include salmon and fortified milk.

If you’re not getting enough, ask your healthcare provider about a supplement. Also, make time for weight-bearing exercise, such as walking. Aim for 30- to 40-minute sessions three to four days a week, as well as light weight lifting two to three times a week. “The more you build your bones now, the more you’ll have later in life,” says Abby Abelson, MD, director of education at the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. “That will reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.”

Ages 35 to 49
What’s happening to your bones:
You begin to lose a small amount of bone.

Stay-strong strategy: It’s possible to prevent bone loss with regular exercise, according to the NIH, so continue to follow the fitness guidelines for younger women. Also, consume 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily. 

Ages 50 and up
What’s happening to your bones: After menopause, most women experience rapid bone loss, thanks to a drop in bone-protective estrogen. During this time, women can lose up to 10% of their bone density. In fact, more than half of people age 50 and older have osteoporosis, according to the NOF.

“How much bone you lose often depends on how much you were able to build when you were younger,” Dr. Abelson says. Women who exercised regularly and consumed enough calcium and vitamin D when they were younger may not lose as much bone as those who did little to stay strong.

Stay-strong strategy: Bump up your calcium intake to 1,200 mg a day and your vitamin D intake to 800 to 1,000 IUs daily. Stay active with weight-bearing exercises, and if you’re 65 or older, get a bone density test every two years, recommends the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. If you’re younger, ask your healthcare provider about getting screened if you break a bone after age 50 or have a family history of osteoporosis.

July 2013