"Drink your milk!" Why do grown-ups say this? One big reason is that milk contains calcium, an important ingredient in building strong bones. And if you start out with strong bones when you're a kid, those bones will serve you well your whole life.
You want bones that are dense, which means they're strong all the way through. Why? Because as people age, bones naturally become less dense. In other words, everyone's going to lose some bone density as he or she ages, so you want to start out with as much as possible.
Your big chance to build bones is when you're young. The process is pretty much over by the time you're 19.
If someone has osteoporosis (say: oss-tee-oh-puh-ro-sis), the person's bones are now weakened because of this loss of bone density. Weak bones can break easier and the person may have other problems such as a stooped-over posture. Maybe you've seen an older woman who's a little hunched over.
Older people — especially women, who are generally smaller and have bones that are lighter and less dense — are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
The most common cause of osteoporosis is age. The older you get, the more bone loss you are likely to have, especially if you don't take in enough calcium.
Osteoporosis also can be caused by diseases or other factors, such as:
Many people don't realize they have osteoporosis until they fracture a bone. There are usually no other symptoms — although some older people may notice they are getting slightly shorter or have a hunched-over posture. Older people with osteoporosis are especially at risk of breaking a hip if they fall down.
If the doctor suspects osteoporosis, he or she will talk to the person and do an examination. The doctor will order X-rays of the patient's bones as well as a bone density test.
Once the doctor is sure of osteoporosis, he or she will treat the patient to prevent more bone loss. Usually, someone with osteoporosis is placed on medications that help slow down bone loss and is also advised to take calcium supplements.
Diet and exercise are important parts of osteoporosis treatment. People need a variety of healthy, calcium-rich foods and regular exercise, such as walking or running, to strengthen bones. Weight training or special exercises may be recommended. The person also will need to be careful to avoid falls, so avoiding icy sidewalks and other hazards is a good idea.
Kids don't usually get osteoporosis, but they can do some things to prevent it later in life:
Take these steps and your skeleton will thank you later!
Reviewed by: Alfred Atanda Jr., MD
Date reviewed: November 2011
|Powerful Girls Have Powerful Bones - The National Bone Health Campaign This site, designed for girls ages 9 to 12, teaches how to get and keep strong, healthy bones for life.|
|The National Osteoporosis Foundation This site educates the public about osteoporosis, prevention, and news and stories affecting bone health.|
|Milk Matters (for kids) This site, created by the National Institutes of Health, aims to increase awareness about the importance of calcium in the diets of tweens and teens. Eating and drinking calcium-rich foods is especially important to 11- to 15-year-olds because bones grow fast during those years.|
|Minerals Just like vitamins, minerals help your body grow, develop, and stay healthy. Find out more about minerals in this article for kids.|
|Vitamins How vital are vitamins? Find out in this article for kids.|
|Flash Interactive: Body Basics: Bones Where would you be without your bones? Learn more about the skeletal system in this article for kids.|
|Problems With Legs and Feet Some kids have problems with their legs and feet. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Why Do People Shrink? Does your grandmother seem to be getting shorter? Sometimes, people lose a little height as they age. Find out why in this article for kids.|
|Figuring Out Food Labels The food label on a food package is a lot like the table of contents in a book - it tells you exactly what the food contains. Read our article for kids for more about food labels.|
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