Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to lose density. Low bone density makes the bones more brittle, fragile, and likely to break. You may think of osteoporosis as a disease that only affects elderly people, but this is not true. Osteoporosis can affect teens and children, in rare cases. Having osteoporosis as a teen could delay your growth and cause changes in the normal appearance of your body (malformations).

Normally, your bones continue to gain bone density into your early twenties. Healthy diet and lifestyle choices can support this process and can prevent you from developing osteoporosis now or in the future.

Nutrition plays a very important role in forming strong bones. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D are essential for building and maintaining healthy bones.

  • Make sure you get 1,300 mg of calcium every day. Calcium is a mineral that your body uses to build bones. Calcium is in milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. Some fish and leafy green vegetables are also good sources of calcium. Many foods like cereals and breads have had calcium added to them (are fortified). Check nutrition labels to see how much calcium is in a food or drink.
  • Try to get 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D is in milk, cereals, salmon, and tuna.
  • Your body also makes vitamin D when you are out in the sun. Bare skin exposure to the sun on your face, arms, legs, or back for no vc than 30 minutes a day, 2 times per week is more than enough. Beyond that, it is important to use sunblock to protect your skin from sunburn, which increases your risk for skin cancer.
  • Drink water or milk instead of soda or sugary drinks.
  • If you have an eating disorder or think that you may have an eating disorder, work with your health care provider to make sure that your bones are healthy. Some eating disorders can increase your risk for osteoporosis.

Making changes in your everyday life can also play an important role in preventing osteoporosis.

  • Stay active and get plenty of exercise every day.
    • Make a goal to get 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This could be walking or biking.
    • If your school offers physical education or gym classes, those provide good ways to increase your physical activity.
  • Avoid dieting too much or exercising too much. It is not healthy to lose large amounts of weight quickly. This can lead to a decrease in your bone density. Your health care provider can tell you what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs. Get help from your health care provider or a trusted adult if you have trouble stopping any of these activities.

Osteoporosis can be especially dangerous for teens. Your teenage years are a time when you should be building bones and growing, not losing bone mass and strength. Making nutrition and lifestyle changes can:

  • Help you develop strong bones for now and in the future.
  • Allow you to grow at a healthy rate.
  • Prevent loss of bone mass and the problems that are caused by that loss, like broken bones and delayed growth.
  • Make you feel better mentally and physically.

Complications from osteoporosis can be very serious. Complications may include:

  • A higher risk of broken bones that are painful and do not heal well.
  • Delayed growth.
  • Physical malformations, such as a collapsed spine or a hunched back.
  • Problems with movement.
  • Osteoporosis is not just a problem for adults. It can be a big problem for teens, whose bodies are still growing and building bones.
  • Choosing to eat and drink more calcium and vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis.
  • You can also help prevent osteoporosis by getting more physical activity and avoiding harmful activities, like smoking, drinking alcohol, or drinking too much soda.
  • If you have, or think you might have, an eating disorder or a problem with drugs or alcohol, get medical help and speak with a trusted adult or friend. These behaviours increase your risk for osteoporosis and they affect your overall health.

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