Osteoporosis is a condition of aging. As people get older, their bones weaken and become more prone to injury and fracture. Weak bones are four times more common in women than men. Up to ten million Americans, and two hundred million people worldwide, have weak bones .
Childhood is the best time to build strong, healthy bones. Bones can get bigger and stronger in the first few decades of life. Eventually, bone strength will lessen despite good diet and exercise. It is important to develop healthy eating and exercise patterns early in life to help with bone strength later.
Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for the health of your bones. The body cannot make calcium so you must get it from what you eat and drink. With adequate exposure to sunlight, some Vitamin D can be made in the body. Sun exposure carries its own risks and in some areas it is not feasible year round. Children playing outdoors should wear sunscreen. You can also get Vitamin D in your diet by eating fortified milk, cereals, and other products. Calcium may be found in dairy as well as leafy greens, legumes, and other foods. If your child doesn’t get enough Vitamin D or Calcium in their diet it can be taken as a supplement – you should discuss this with your doctor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young children 4 to 8 years old get 800 milligrams each day of Calcium and 600 international units each day of Vitamin D. For older children, ages 9 to 18 years, 1300 milligrams of Calcium are recommended and 600 international units of Vitamin D. One cup of milk or Orange Juice with Vitamin D has about 300 milligrams of Calcium – so it is important that kids are getting several servings each day.
Vigorous exercise, such as running and jumping or team sports like soccer, also contributes to bone strength. Staying active during adolescence is a very important part in bone health.
Risks for Female Athletes
Young women who are very thin or exercise too much are at risk for malnutrition and bone weakness. This can cause lasting damage to the bones. One major sign of this is loss of regular periods. Any concern in this area should prompt an immediate visit to the doctor.
Smoking is harmful to every body system. It can damage bones, limit bones from becoming as strong as they should be and cause problems with healing if the bone breaks.