March 24, 2014
You’ve probably heard that drinking milk and exercising regularly will help you build strong, healthy bones. But why are strong bones so important?
Without enough calcium or physical activity, children and adults could develop osteopenia – low bone density that can increase the risk for painful fractures.
Who is at risk for developing osteopenia?
There are some common traits found among people with osteopenia. Caucasians, Asians and Hispanics are at the highest risk.
Lifestyle choices and medical conditions also play a role. You are at a higher risk if you have:
- An unhealthy diet high in soft drinks and low in calcium
- A history of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
- A condition that requires tube feedings or total parenteral nutrition (TPN)
- Chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cystic fibrosis
- A disorder that impairs physical activity such as muscular dystrophy
- A history of chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- Taken steroids or other medications to prevent seizures
If you are concerned about your child’s risk factors, speak with her doctor. Bones do not stop building mass until a child is about 18 years old, so there may be steps you can take to help.
How can I prevent osteopenia?
Eating a healthy diet high in vitamin C and calcium as well as exercising regularly can help you prevent osteopenia. If you are unable to exercise or confined to a bed, talk to a physical therapist about developing an activity program to keep your arms and legs moving.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help build stronger bones.
How is osteopenia diagnosed?
Your doctor may require you to complete an X-ray or a DXA scan. DXA scans were originally developed for adults, so the test should be scored differently if it is used to test a child.
For more information about osteopenia, visit the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education.