Build Better Bones: Prevent Osteoporosis Early

Dr. Marie Savard's advice on how teens can prevent bone loss later in life.

ByABC News via logo
September 23, 2009, 8:09 AM

Sept. 23, 2009— -- If you think osteoporosis is something teens don't need to worry about … think again.

According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis is a health threat for 44 million Americans, 68 percent of whom are women. One out of every two women and one out of every four men age 50 and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

The best time to combat that threat of osteoporosis and low-bone density comes during the teenage years, because 90 percent of a woman's bone mass is accumulated by the time she is 18.

"GMA" medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard has advice on what you can do to protect your teen's bones. Savard, who is being honored for her work by the National Osteoporosis Foundation, said that "we can teach our young girls how to develop these habits for a lifetime.

"I take care of a lot of older women who are worried about being frail," she explained. "We can prevent these future complications and increase independence."

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Increase Calcium and Vitamin D in Diet

Savard said that 85 percent of teenage girls aren't getting enough calcium, and 70 percent of children don't get enough vitamin D.

Calcium is the major building block of bones, Savard explained. Without enough, you don't have a foundation for bone density. She compares it to the foundation of a house -- if you don't have a strong foundation, the house is weak. Calcium "llays the foundation for your bones for a lifetime," she said.

And vitamin D is essential for calcium to get absorbed properly.

"Without the vitamin D you're not going to get the calcium," Savard said, explaining that the two go hand in hand.