Women may lose bone faster in their 50s, but by their late 60s, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate. One-quarter of men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Your age doesn't protect you from the condition, either. A woman's chance of getting osteoporosis does rise sharply after menopause, especially for white and Asian women, and those with small, thin frames. That’s because after menopause women can lose about 20% of their bone mass within 5-7 years.
But studies have shown that as many as 2% of college-age women may already have osteoporosis, and another 15% have lost a significant amount of bone density.
Imagine if you had to live the rest of your life on the money you'd saved by the time you were 30. That's exactly what your bones have to do. They’re at their strongest around age 30, after which they gradually lose minerals. So children, teenagers, and young adults are building bone that must last the rest of their lives. That means it’s never too early to think about protecting yourself from osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis doesn't have to be a natural part of aging. To build bone now and help prevent osteoporosis later:
- Get in plenty of weight-bearing exercise -- like dancing, jogging, tennis, and walking. Just like your muscles, your bones need to work regularly to stay strong. Studies show that young women who dance, play sports, or do other physical activity have the highest bone density, and that postmenopausal women who work out regularly can prevent or reverse bone loss by almost 1% a year.
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Good natural sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals and juices. Three and a half ounces of cooked salmon provides 90% of your daily dose of vitamin D. If you can't get enough of these nutrients in your diet, you can take supplements. You can also ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels to see where you stand.
- Don't smoke. It makes you more likely to break a bone as you get older, especially if you smoke for a long time. Quitting seems to lower this risk over time.
- There is some evidence that high caffeine intake in elderly women increases risk.
- Talk to your doctor about your bone health, and ask if you need to have a bone density scan.