Strong Bones for Life: Fight Off Osteoporosis
Lisa Dombrowski, 41, doesn't want to be crippled -- and she knows that's a real risk for her. Both her mother and grandmother had osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that currently afflicts 10 million Americans. So five years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child, she got serious: She upped her calcium intake by eating more yogurt and cottage cheese and by taking high-calcium prenatal supplements. After the baby was born, she started attending a doctor-approved fitness class nearly every day to make sure she got the weight-bearing exercise that builds bone. "My doctor says she's pleased with my progress," says Dombrowski, who owns a design communications firm in a Chicago suburb.
But you shouldn't wait to get pregnant to start protecting your bones and it's not too late to start if you're well past that stage. The more doctors learn about how women get osteoporosis -- and osteopenia, the low bone mass condition that precedes it -- the more convinced they are that diet and exercise geared to preserving bone are the best insurance against it. "It's never too late to maintain a healthy skeleton," says Ethel Siris, MD, director of the Toni Stabile Osteoporosis Center of the Columbia University Medical Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
The reason? Your body constantly builds up and breaks down bone tissue, a cycle designed to supply bones with strong, young cells. After you reach peak lifetime bone mass, around age 30, your body begins to break down bone cells faster than it can make new ones -- a process that accelerates in your 40s, when supplies of the bone-building hormone estrogen start to dwindle. Indeed, menopause is a key reason women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. Also, men's bigger size helps: Guys have about 25 percent more bone mass on average. And they tend to eat more, including more foods that contain calcium.
Follow our strong-bones plan and you'll give yourself the best possible chance to stay out of the osteoporosis danger zone.