Bone Density: It's important NOW, no matter what your age...

Bone density chart showing decline from active growth years through age 90

Did you know that you aren’t too young to have osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is most common in older women, but it can still occur in young adults. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to fracture because the bone has lost some of its calcium and mineral density. Since bone is a living tissue, it is constantly being replaced by new bone. If your body is not forming enough new bone and/or too much of the existing bone is reabsorbed by the body, osteoporosis can occur. Even though young adulthood is a time for active bone growth, certain factors can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis.

What can increase my chances of developing osteoporosis? 

  • Missed periods: This may be a sign that your estrogen levels are lower than they should be, which can be caused by low body weight and increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Significant or rapid weight loss: Low body weight can cause your body to produce less estrogen and make you more susceptible to developing osteoporosis.
  • Lack of weight bearing exercise: Weight bearing exercise forces your body to work against gravity and increases your bone density.
  • Inadequate calcium or vitamin D from diet: Calcium is important for building and maintaining healthy bones and vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
  •  Being small and thin: People who are petite and/or thin naturally have smaller bones, meaning they have less bone to begin with than larger people. Also, women generally have smaller bones than men, making women more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
  • Family history: If someone in your family has osteoporosis, then your risk of developing the disease increases.
  • Certain medications: Some medications can interfere with the absorption of calcium so be sure to check with your doctor when starting a new medication.
  • Ethnicity: Both Caucasian and Asian ethnicities have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Getting older: As you age, not only will your body become less efficient at absorbing nutrients such as calcium, but the decline in estrogen during menopause will also increase your risk.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol: This behavior can contribute to overall poor nutrition and an increased risk of falling.
  • Smoking: This reduces your ability to absorb calcium, which is necessary for the maintenance of bond density.

How can I improve my bone density or prevent osteoporosis?

Eat a well-balanced diet, including adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Young adults should have 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 - 800 IU of vitamin D every day.

  • Calcium is important in building and maintaining healthy bones
    • Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products are the best sources of calcium. This includes yogurts, cheeses, and buttermilk.
    • Green leafy vegetables are also a good source of calcium. Examples are broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, and bok choy (Chinese cabbage).
    • Calcium is frequently added to orange juice, soy milk, tofu, cereals, and breads. Check the labels on these foods for added calcium.
  • Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
    • The body makes its own vitamin D when exposed to the sun.
    • Cheese, fortified milk, fish, and fortified cereals are good sources of vitamin D.

Engage in weight bearing exercises at least three days per week for a total of more than 90 minutes per week. Weight bearing exercises are exercises that make your muscles pull on your bones and include:

• Walking
• Jogging
• Playing tennis
• Dancing
• Aerobics
• Weight training using weight machines or free weights


• Pub Med/NIH http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001400/
• Medline Plus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoporosis.html
• American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

• http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00127
• http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00126