By Dr. Nowarat Songsiridej
To understand how osteoporosis affects you, there are three questions you have to ask yourself. How old are you? What gender are you? And, have you prepared your body to ward off osteoporosis? 
Here is why your age matters. Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation. Throughout youth, the body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium and vitamin D, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium or vitamin D from your diet, bone production and tissue may suffer. As you age, the rate your bones break down becomes faster than the rate that bone is building up. The average age in which a person has the most bone mass is 35 years old.
Osteoporosis is a natural part of aging. There is most often no pain or weakness associated with osteoporosis until it become severe and bones start to fracture. Now, how do you know if you will have severe osteoporosis? Contributing factors include: parents who suffered hip fractures, smoking, drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a week, disease that affects your bones (This is a question you should ask your doctor.), any medications that affect your bones (Here is another question for your doctor.), and/or if you ever broke a bone and how severe the injury was.
If you have any of these factors, you should consider getting a bone density test at the age of 55. Otherwise, it is recommended people get their bone density tested at 65. The bone density test of anyone younger than 40 is very difficult to interpret.
Woman in menopause have their own risks of osteoporosis because of the abrupt lack of estrogen. This can cause the spine to collapse and disfigure, so preparing for osteoporosis is very important for all woman.
You can prepare for osteoporosis and be nice to your bones at any age. Stock up on calcium and vitamin D. Drink milk. Get sunshine and exercise every day. Eat healthy and maintain a normal weight. Don’t be too thin or too heavy. If you are too thin, starvation causes estrogen to lower so you will have unhealthy bones. If you are too heavy, you have a difficult time exercising and end up with the same unhealthy bones. When bones become too thin, you might need help from medications. (Another question to ask your doctor.)
Osteoporosis is a devastating disease for which no cure currently exists. The good news is there are steps you can take to decrease your risks. Prevention of osteoporosis involves several aspects, including: nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and early screening. You can work with your healthcare provider to develop a plan to keep your bones healthy for life.
(Dr. Nowarat Songsiridej (Song)  is a board certified rheumatologist. Her interests are in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. She has served on the teaching faculty at the University of Iowa and University of North Dakota. Dr. Song sees patients at The Clinics of St. Alexius.)