Osteoporosis, a condition in which your bones become thin and weak, usually happens after menopause, when levels of estrogen – which has a protective effect – drop. But about 15 percent of college-age women have osteopenia (below-average bone mass), a precursor to osteoporosis. Need-to-know facts to keep you and your family strong:

50% of women will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point.

Why your daughter may be at risk

If she’s college-age and doesn’t eat a lot of dairy or she has a family history of osteoporosis, tell her to bring it up with her doctor. After reviewing her diet he may give her a blood test to check her levels of vitamin D (crucial for strong bones), suggest that she take a calcium and vitamin D supplement, or refer her for a baseline bone density test. Talking about her bone health is especially important if she also has any of these factors, says Harris Mcllwain, MD, author of Reversing Osteopenia:

IS AN ATHLETEathlete Some athletes, including runners and gymnasts, end up extremely thin, and if her body fat falls too low, estrogen levels will get out of whack. If her periods are irregular or nonexistent, her hormones have likely been disrupted.
IS A SMOKERsmoker Nearly 18 percent of full-time college students smoke, and cigarette smoke has toxic chemicals that can harm the bones (not to mention the lungs and heart). “Smoking just about doubles your risk of osteoporosis,” says Dr. Mcllwain.
IS USING DEPO-PROVERA FOR BIRTH CONTROLbirth-control This birth control injection may cause her to lose calcium from her bones. If your daughter also has other risk factors for osteoporosis – or if she’s been using Depo-Provera for two or more years – she should ask her doc about stopping.
HAS HAD MULTIPLE FRACTURESfractures Several fractures (especially if they’re in unusual places, like her spine) may mean she already has osteoporosis and needs medication.


Which is better for your bones-swimming or walking?

Walking Wins!
Weight-bearing activity, in which you work your body against gravity while standing, is better for bones. In fact, older women who walked at least four hours per week were 41 percent less likely to break a hip compared with those who walked an hour or less a week, according to research from Harvard Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Calcium needs at every age

Are you all getting enough? If you suspect you aren’t, ask your doctor about taking a supplement.

KIDS 4-8
800 mg per day
(2 cups milk + 1 string cheese)

KIDS 9-18
1,300 mg per day
(2 cups milk + 2 string cheeses + 6 oz yogurt)

ADULTS 19-50
1,000 mg per day
(2 cups milk + 8 oz yogurt + ¼ cup almonds)

1,200 mg per day
(2 cups milk + 8 oz yogurt + ¼ cup almonds + ½ cup broccoli)