I’m about to become a grandma! Just typing those words widens my smile to the size of the Mississippi River. Along with the excitement of becoming a grandparent, I’m also motivated to keep my body strong and healthy, so I can remain active, chase my grandkids, and take them hiking and biking.
May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month, and while people often tend to focus more on this disease of thinning bones as they age, bone health shouldn’t just be a priority for grandparents. No matter your age, the best time to care for your future bones is today.
Bone is living tissue with small bits of bone being removed and replaced with new bone. Imagine bone as a bank account in which we make frequent deposits and withdrawals. In childhood, much more bone is put down than removed. That is, children make large deposits but only small withdrawals.
Childhood and early adulthood are critical times to develop peak bone mass. The denser your children’s bones are when they’re young means there’s more bone tissue available for later withdrawals and less risk they’ll develop osteoporosis later in life. This is why osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as a childhood disease that manifests in older age.
By ensuring your children consume adequate calcium and vitamin D and that they engage in regular exercise, you’ll help them develop strong, dense bones. Giving your children milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy foods is a smart strategy.
Early and middle adulthood
By the time you’ve celebrated your 20th birthday, you’ve likely hit peak bone mass. But this is still a critical time for your future bones. Continue your exercise routines and your wholesome diet with adequate dairy foods to allow for healthy bone remodeling. Without enough calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients, the withdrawals from your bone account will become much bigger than your deposits and bone loss will accelerate.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are especially critical times for the health of a young woman’s future bones. Growing babies requires ample calcium to build their own skeletons, but if enough calcium isn’t present in the mother’s diet, the baby will pull calcium from the mom’s bones, putting the mother at risk for future osteoporosis.
This is my stage of life – the smiling soon-to-be-grandma stage – with concerns about weak, fragile bones. My risk for osteoporosis increases with age, but also because of my personal circumstances. Other people in my family have had osteoporosis, and I took bone-damaging drugs for several years. To take care of my bones, I eat several servings of dairy foods daily, I engage in weight-bearing exercise every day, and I don’t drink alcohol excessively or smoke even a single puff.
Today’s the best day to take care of your bones. What’s your first step?
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND, is the author of several books, including the new Prediabetes: A Complete Guide, Second Edition. She’s a freelance writer, nutrition, and diabetes consultant to the food industry and the creator of online courses for people with prediabetes and others. Visit her at jillweisenberger.com.