We all know that bone health is important—but many women don’t realize that their 20s are when bone density is at its peak. Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to weaken and become more brittle, can make women susceptible to fracture and injury later in life. However, good habits in your younger years can set you up for better health later.
What are those good habits? Molly Tatum, DO, orthopedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Institute of Dayton, emphasizes the importance of getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and consistently performing weightbearing exercise. “Walking counts as weightbearing exercise,” says Dr. Tatum, “as long as you’re doing something to use your body against gravity.” Jogging, hiking, strength training, and dancing are all good examples of weightbearing exercise; exercises like swimming or biking, while still important for cardiovascular health, don’t do as much to strengthen bones.
How much calcium or vitamin D a person needs depends on their age and personal health history, but Dr. Tatum says the general recommendation is 800-1200 mg of calcium per day, and 400-800 units of vitamin D per day. “If you’ve ever had a significant injury or have reason for your vitamin D levels to be depleted, get your levels checked to see how much you need,” says Dr. Tatum. “Diet is the best way to get those amounts, but some people may need extra supplements.”
Sometimes, women don’t consider how interrelated all facets of their health are, including their reproductive health. “If I have a young woman coming in with shin splints or a stress fracture,” says Dr. Tatum, “the first thing I ask is about her cycle.”
Not having regular menstrual periods, malnourishment, and severely low weight are all risk factors for developing osteopenia and osteoporosis. Female endurance athletes, Dr. Tatum says, are more at risk for amenorrhea, disordered eating, and osteoporosis. Exercise is important for your health, but make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients, and utilizing proper recovery techniques. Any kind of restrictive diet without proper supplementation will increase risk for bone weakness, as will a sedentary lifestyle. Breastfeeding can also deplete calcium stores in women, so taking care of your bones before, during, and after pregnancy is particularly important.
Women are more at risk for weakened bones than men are, but armed with the knowledge of proper nutrition and an active lifestyle, women can protect their bones and continue to work toward well-rounded health for their whole life.
Kettering Health Network orthopedic services provide comprehensive care to help you live and maintain a healthy and active life. To learn more, call 1-844-228-6683 (MOVE).