Send This To Your Mom: Osteoporosis And Petite Women

Osteoporosis, literally meaning "porous bone," is a disease that causes the bones to weaken, making them more susceptible to breaking or partly breaking (fractures). Worldwide, osteoporosis affects one in three women over the age of fifty.

Unfortunately, that makes many of our moms susceptible to incurring an osteoporotic fracture sometime in their lives.

What's more, if you're a petite and got it from your mama, you may want to know that being petite or thin is also a risk factor for osteoporosis later in life, simply because we have less bone to lose than those with larger body frames. 

Here are five tips from the International Osteoporosis Foundation to let your mom know you support their health—and also how to protect yourself and your bone health as a petite moving forward.

1. The best time to improve bone health is while you're still young

Technically, the greatest benefit of exercise for improved bone density can be seen before puberty. However, given that ship has sailed, there's still a lot you can do.

Just like your muscles, your bones grow stronger if you use them. The best way to improve bone mineral density, therefore, is through weight-bearing exercises, either with weights or using your body weight, such as yoga.

2. Fitness can reduce the risk of osteoporosis 

For your mom, physical activity and fitness has been shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, fractures and fall-related injuries. For this reason, getting your mom started with a strength-training program would be helpful.

Keep in mind, there are some movements that should be performed with caution or avoided altogether. These include spinal twists, forward bends, or aggressive, high intensity interval training exercises that may be too high-impact for the bones.

If she hasn't already, your mom should consult with a rheumatologist and be cleared to do exercise before attempting any program.

Once she's cleared though—mother-daughter workout then brunch? It's a date.

3. Calcium is key, and you and your mom may not be getting enough

More than 99% of the body's calcium is contained in the bones and teeth, so it's no surprise that ingesting calcium helps to build and protect your bones. 

Calcium has been shown to have a positive effect on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, and remains an important and well-known part of any diet. Calcium-fortified foods include low-fat or fat free dairy products, and dark green veggies such as kale and broccoli. 

The National Osteoporosis Foundation's Clinical Guidelines recommend a diet of 1200mg of calcium per day for women 51 and older, and incorporating supplements if diet alone is insufficient.

4. You'll need vitamin D to help make use of that calcium

Lesser known than the importance of calcium is that the body requires vitamin D to absorb it. Therefore, it's important to get enough vitamin D, either through supplementation, or from foods like egg yolk, fortified milk, or fatty fish such as salmon.

For many, especially those living in cities, relying solely on the sun for vitamin D is not enough.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation's Clinical Guidelines recommend a diet of 800-1000IU per day for individuals aged 50 and older, and incorporating supplements if necessary.

5. What about collagen?

Bones are mostly made of collagen, a kind of protein. While there's not a wealth of studies on collagen supplementation in women with osteoporosis, some studies have shown it plays a positive therapeutic role in increasing bone mineral density, as well as in providing symptomatic pain relief. 

The bottom line

When it comes to osteoporosis, us petites are at an increased risk. But through a combination of strength training and nutrition, you and your mom can help keep each other motivated and accountable to stay fit.