Eight million women and two million men age 50 or over have osteoporosis, with 34 million more having osteopenia, the precursor to this disease.
While bone building usually reaches its peak about 30, there are things you should do and not do to keep strong.
The single most important mineral for maintaining bone density is, of course, calcium. Women ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 milligrams, and those over 50 need 1,200 milligrams. Supplementation is fine. It takes the body about 8 hours to absorb 500 to 600 milligrams. Even then, it isn't 100 percent absorbed. So take half in the morning and half after dinner, along with including dairy and other calcium foods.
And that calcium needs vitamin D for absorption. If you aren't consuming fortified D foods, you'll want a supplement as well. The suggested amount currently is 600 to 800 International Units, or IU's, although many experts take a couple 1,000 IU's because it is tough to reach toxic levels.
Another component assisting calcium absorption is protein. So get enough each meal. Women should look for 50 to 70 grams, depending on weight. So try at least 15 grams per meal with some in snacks.
Since exercise stimulates bone formation, putting stress on muscles puts stress on bones, and that's good. These moves should be weight-bearing - meaning step on it. Walking works, as well as lunges and pushups - anywhere that you use your body's weight for resistance.
One thing you want to avoid is too much caffeine - more than 375 milligrams or about 4 cups of coffee. Also, keep alcohol to one glass a day - two for guys - and no smoking. All of these increase your risk of the disease.
You can find more information in the June issue of Prevention magazine.