Establishing strong bones should start young. Did you know that 90% of peak bone mass is reached by the age of 18 in girls and 20 in boys? So it would make sense that we do the most we can to increase bone density in our younger years, as opposed to just trying to prevent it when we are older.
Bone is living tissue that changes constantly, with bits of old bone being removed and replaced by new bone. At about the age of 30, the amount of bone being made starts to decrease, increasing the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis.
There are many factors that affect peak bone mass. Some like gender and race cannot be changed. However, there are three factors that you can do something about.
1. Diet/Nutrition: Maintaining a healthy diet that combines calcium-rich foods is important to building and maintaining bone density. Dairy (organic is best), dark leafy greens, almonds and salmon are rich calcium sources and should be incorporated into your diet to achieve the recommended 1000mg of calcium per day. If you have a hard time achieving that with food, supplementing with a calcium product like Pathway Bone Guardian is an important factor to consider.
2. Physical Activity: Girls and boys and young adults who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass than those who do not. Women and men age 30 and older can help prevent bone loss with regular exercise. The best activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise. This is exercise that forces you to work against gravity, such as walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, dancing, and weight training.
3. Lifestyle Behaviors: Smoking has been linked to low bone density in adolescents and is associated with other unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol use and a sedentary lifestyle. People who begin smoking at a younger age are more likely to be heavier smokers later in life. This greatly impacts peak bone mass, as well as putting older smokers at additional risk for bone loss and fracture.
If you are under the age of 30, do what you can to increase bone density now. If you are currently diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, the three factors above are equally important to help with maintaining the bone mass that you have.