Your bone mass changes throughout your life. When you are young, you build up bone mass. When you get older, you start to lose bone mass. There are steps you can take, however, to help maintain healthy bone mass levels no matter what age you are, minimizing your risk for health problems related to low bone mass.
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Bone Mass Measurements
Bone mass is usually expressed as a comparison to the bone mass you would expect a normal healthy adult to have. A Z-score of anything between -1 and 1 is normal, a Z-score between -1 and -2.5 means you have low bone mineral density and a Z-score of -2.5 or lower means you have osteoporosis.
Importance of Healthy Bone Mass
When you are younger than 25, you want to try to build as much bone mass as you can, since after this age you start to lose your bone mass. Once you are older than this, you need to take steps to maintain your bone mass or you may develop osteoporosis, which puts you at higher risk for bone fractures.
Risk Factors for Low Bone Mass
Some people are more at risk for low bone mass than others. If you family members with osteoporosis, for example, or a medical condition that affects your bone loss, you are more likely to develop osteoporosis. The same is true if you didn't follow healthy habits when you were young to build up bone mass. Raw food vegetarians also tend to have lower bone mass.
Increasing Bone Mass
Certain steps can help you to increase or maintain your bone mass. These include getting sufficient calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C; participating in weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running or dancing; not smoking and not drinking to excess. Menopausal women may also want to undergo hormone therapy to lower their osteoporosis risk, and doctors may prescribe medication to prevent osteoporosis for people at high risk for osteoporosis.