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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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March 2000

Q. I am a 25 years old female and have a family history of osteoporosis. I also smoke. what can I do to help prevent me from getting weak bones?

A. Osteoporosis is defined as a significant reduction in bone mass (thinning of the bones), such that one is at increase risk of fractures. Risk factors include being caucasian, thin, smoking, being sedentary, alcohol abuse, inadequate calcium or vitamin D intake, estrogen deficiency and family history.

It is doubtful that you currently have osteoporosis, but you certainly are at increased risk.

First, you should quit smoking, for multiple reasons. Certainly, eating adequate dairy products (milk , yogurt and cheese) is important in order to get adequate calcium and vit D. If you do not eat much dairy, then I would suggest you take calcium supplements such as Tums ES 2 tabs twice per day which is about 1200 mg calcium per day, plus vit D 400 IU per day. Also, regular weight bearing exercise is important in bone strength, such as walking, aerobics, etc.

These measures will help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis in the future, but will not guarantee you won't get it. Therefore, you may want to ask your doctor to consider ordering a bone density test at about age 50 to screen for osteoporosis, called a DEXA scan. (Although, by that time, the test may be completely different and may be called something else!).

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