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Much of what young women do for their bodies now will determine their health and mobility in old age. Research suggests that women can build bone mass throughout their early adult years, beyond the time their linear growth stops, which is important in preventing osteoporosis and its related problems later on.

A Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, study finds that through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and increased calcium intake, women up to age 30 can increase their bone mass and thus reduce the risk of bone injury in their later years. The study found the risk of bone fracture by age 70 was far less for women who eat calcium-rich diets, at 39 percent, than the 77 percent risk for women who consumed too little calcium.

Dr. Robert Recker, who led the study, advises that women consume 1,400 to 1,500 milligrams, or approximately three servings, of calcium per day. Calcium-rich foods, such as eight ounces of milk, a cup of yogurt, or one ounce of cheese can fulfill the daily requirement. For women concerned about weight gain and cholesterol intake, low-fat, low-cholesterol varieties will do the job just as well as their high-fat counterparts.

Although calcium supplements are available, Dr. Recker does not favor them. Rather, he recommends eating a well-balanced diet that provides other essential nutrients in addition to calcium.