Your bones have reached 90% of their peak mass by the time you reach your 20s; after age 30 or so, the best you can do is maintain the amount youve built up. So consider this your last chance for growth! Make sure your daily diet includes 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption. If you cant get the full dose from food, bridge the gap with a supplement, but realize that with calcium, more is not better. “New data shows that excessive calcium in supplement form increases the risk of kidney stones and possibly vascular diseases,” says Felicia Cosman, MD, clinical director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. So consume no more than 2,500 milligrams a day, she says.
Your ability to build muscle also peaks in your 20s. And if you dont do any strength training, your muscle mass will start to declineover the next 20 years, you could lose as much as half a pound of muscle per year. If youre pressed for time, you only really need to target eight major muscle groups: biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, core (including lower back), and shoulders. You dont even have to hit them separatelyjust do a basic sequence of squats, lunges, push-ups, biceps curls, and triceps dips (two sets of 15 reps, three times a week).
Besides the myriad other reasons why you shouldnt smokehello, cancer!add bone health to the list. “Smoking reduces the efficiency of the bone-building cells,” Dr. Cosman says. “Plus, it lowers your bodys production of estrogen, which could cause you to go through menopause at a younger age and put you at risk for osteoporosis.”
Your 40s:Pack in protein.
If youve been forgoing iron (the dumbbell kind), muscle continues to disappear in this decadeat twice the rate it did in the previous two. “Your muscles start to become infiltrated with fatyou turn from flank steak to rump roast,” says Vonda Wright, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five to seven years after menopause. Counteract the drain by upping your calcium to 1,200 milligrams (and continue getting 600 IU of vitamin D) daily. If youre drinking fortified juices or other beverages, be sure to shake them well before pouring, as the calcium often sinks to the bottom.
All women should have had a DEXA (bone-density) scan by age 65unless youre at risk for osteoporosis, in which case you may need one earlier. Risk factors include family history; ethnicity (Caucasian and Asian women are most at risk); low body weight (a body-mass index of 19 or under); and early menopause (before age 45), either naturally or due to a hysterectomy or removal of ovaries. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors now so you can minimize their impactand maximize your strength in the future.