Juvenile Bone Health (cont.)

My 8-Year-Old Son Is a Daredevil and Has Already Broken Several Bones. Could He Have a Problem Like Osteoporosis at This Young Age?

Reader Stories

Osteoporosis is rare among children and adolescents. When it occurs, it is usually caused by an underlying medical disorder or by medications used to treat such disorders. This is called secondary osteoporosis. It may also be the result of a genetic disorder such as osteogenesis imperfecta, in which bones break easily from little or no apparent cause. Sometimes there is no identifiable cause of juvenile osteoporosis. This is known as idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis. Two or more low-impact fractures may be a sign of one of these disorders.

If you are concerned about your son's frequent fractures, talk to his doctor for more information.

How Can I Get Through to My Kids? They Sure Don't Think About Their Bones.

You are absolutely right. Research has shown that children and adolescents do not tend to think much about their health. Their decisions about diet and exercise, for example, are rarely made based on "what's good for them." But we also know that you have a much greater influence on your kids' decisions and behaviors than you may believe. For example, many teenagers, when asked who has been the greatest influence in their life, name parents before friends, siblings, grandparents, and romantic partners.

Disorders, Medications, and Behaviors That May Affect Peak Bone Mass

Primary Disorders
Juvenile arthritis
Diabetes mellitus
Osteogenesis imperfecta
Cushing's syndrome
Malabsorption syndromes
Anorexia nervosa
Kidney disease
Liver disease
Anticonvulsants (e.g., for epilepsy)
Corticosteroids (e.g., for rheumatoid arthritis, asthma)
Immunosuppressive agents (e.g., for cancer)

Prolonged inactivity or immobility
Inadequate nutrition (especially calcium, vitamin D)
Excessive exercise leading to amenorrhea
Alcohol abuse

The best way to help your kids develop healthy habits for life is to be a good role model. Research suggests that active children have active parents. If you make physical activity a priority and try hard to maintain a healthy diet, including plenty of calcium, chances are your positive lifestyle will "rub off" on them along the way. Here are some things you can do:

  • Be a role model. Drink milk with meals, eat calcium-rich snacks, and get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. Don't smoke.

  • Incorporate calcium-rich foods into family meals.

  • Serve fat-free or low-fat milk with meals and snacks.

  • Stock up on calcium-rich snacks that are easy for hungry children to find, such as:

    • cheese cubes and string cheese

    • single-serving puddings

    • yogurt and frozen yogurt

    • cereal with low-fat milk

    • broccoli with yogurt dip

    • calcium-fortified orange juice

    • individual cheese pizzas

    • tortillas

    • almonds.

  • Limit access to soft drinks and other snacks that don't provide calcium by not keeping them in the house.

  • Help your kids to find a variety of physical activities or sports they enjoy participating in.

  • Establish a firm time limit for sedentary activities such as TV, computers, and video games.

  • Teach your kids to never start smoking, as it is highly addictive and toxic.

  • Look for signs of eating disorders and overtraining, especially in preteen and teenage girls, and address these problems right away.

  • Talk to your children's pediatrician about their bone health. If your child has a special medical condition that may interfere with bone mass development, ask the doctor for ways to minimize the problem and protect your child's bone health.

  • Talk to your children about their bone health, and let them know it is a priority for you. Your kids may not think much about health, but they are probably attracted to such health benefits as energy, confidence, good looks, and strength.

Patient Comments

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Juvenile Bone Health - Experience Question: Please describe your experience with juvenile bone health.
Juvenile Bone Health - Getting Girls to Drink Milk Question: Have you had success getting your daughter to drink milk? Please share tips.
Juvenile Bone Health - Lactose Intolerance Question: Did you suspect your child was lactose intolerant? Please share your story.
Juvenile Bone Health - Supplements Question: Do your children take calcium supplements? If so, in what form?
Juvenile Bone Health - Exercise Question: What types of exercise do your kids engage in to strengthen their bones?
Juvenile Bone Health - Fractures Question: Is your child prone to fractures? Please share your concerns.