Childhood and young adulthood are the bone-building years. As children grow, their bone mass increases until it reaches what is called peak bone mass (PBM). According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, up to 90 percent of PBM is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, which makes youth the best time to build strong bones to last a lifetime.
In honor of National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, here are six ways to help your kids build and maintain strong bones.
About 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth. Each day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces, but our bodies cannot produce new calcium. That's why it's important to try to get calcium from the food we eat. When we don't get enough calcium for our body's needs, it is taken from our bones.
Here are some calcium-rich foods to try incorporating into your child's diet:
- Low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese
- Canned sardines and salmon (with bones)
- Collard greens, turnip greens, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage, dandelion greens, mustard greens and broccoli
Make sure your child receives the recommended amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps ensure the body absorbs and retains calcium and phosphorus, both critical for building bone.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, older children and adolescents need 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day.
Sources of vitamin D
- Oily fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and some mushrooms
- Foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine
- Your skin makes vitamin D from the ultraviolet light (UVB rays) in sunlight
- If you aren't getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and food, consider taking a supplement. But, before adding a vitamin D supplement, check to see if any of the other supplements, multivitamins or medications you take contain vitamin D.
Children and teens need to be active every day and get at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise. Weight-bearing or muscle-strengthening activity is recommended, as it helps build bones and keep them strong.
Examples of exercises include:
- Jumping rope
- Lifting weights
- Using elastic exercise bands
- Using weight machines
Healthy Lifestyle Choices
A combination of healthy lifestyle choices all contribute to building and maintaining healthy bones. These include:
- Avoid smoking and underage alcohol consumption (harmful to bones)
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
Teach your children about the importance of taking preventive measures to protect their bones and prevent fractures, both on and off the court.
- Wear a seatbelt
- Wear sporting equipment/pads protective gear
- Wear a helmet
Speak with Your Child's Healthcare Provider
Make an appointment with your child's pediatrician or other healthcare provider to talk about your child's bone health and ways to decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Learn more about Doylestown Health's Osteoporosis and Bone Health Program
About Pediatric Services
Doylestown Health is committed to providing family-centered children's services to Bucks and Montgomery County communities. The Carol and Louis Della Penna Pediatric Center offers expert inpatient care to all ages including infants, children and teens. Della Penna Pediatric Center Services extend beyond the hospital setting to include health and wellness education, nutrition services and other support services.
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