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Getting a Jump on Osteoporosis: March 2, 2012

It affects 200 million women worldwide. Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density over time.

“What happens is as the calcium leaches out of the bones; the bones become fragile, brittle, and are at greater risk to break,” says Dr. David Heligman, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

The disease is primarily seen in women over the age of 50.

“When women enter the post menopausal phase in their life usually after 50 their estrogen levels decrease and that causes absorption of calcium and vitamin D to decrease,” says Dr. Heligman.

Although osteoporosis develops when you’re older, it’s your lifestyle as an adolescent that can make or break your bone health.

Bone density peaks at around age 25 in women; then it’s all downhill. That means females in their teens and early twenties need to bulk up while they still can.

Experts suggest regular exercise like jogging or playing sports to build strength in the legs, hips and lower spine. Strength training is especially bone beneficial.

“As the muscles are contracting and pulling on the actual bones, in particular with strength training because it’s a strong pull, that encourages your body to lay more calcium down in the bones,” says Dr. Heligman.

A diet rich in dairy products, vegetables and fish also goes a long way.

“Vitamin D and calcium are very important for bone metabolism and maintaining the normal bone structure,” says Dr. Heligman.

There’s no bones about it; young women who take the steps now can avoid a breakdown later.