Even if you didn't drink your milk or exercise as much as you should have when you were younger, you can still strengthen your frame. Take our quiz and learn the simple secrets to staying structurally sound.

By Lynya Floyd

1. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D matters most:

A. before your 20s

B. by your 30s

C. during menopause

D. after menopause


B. By about age 20, you'll have built up to 90% of your skeletal mass. But there's still time to get the recommended daily intake of 1,000 mg of calcium and the 600 IU of vitamin D women 19 to 50 need. "It's all about getting to the maximum level by 30," explains Michael Marks, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut. "After 30, it's about minimizing bone loss."

2. For a surprising bone health benefit, try this workout:

A. whole-body vibration

B. swimming

C. horseback riding

D. yoga


D. Experts sing the praises of weight-bearing exercise (think stair climbing, not swimming) for strengthening muscles to protect your bones. But yoga and even Pilates also help. "Balance is a big component of decreasing your risk of falling," explains Brendan Carman, director of rehabilitation at Mass Bay Spine & Sport Physical Therapy in Marshfield, Massachusetts. "Good postural alignment prevents you from stressing or straining one area of your body over another." An added bonus: Balance workouts improve core strength, fortifying the muscles around your spine.

3. You don't need a bone density test until...

A. age 65

B. age 55

C. you start menopause

D. you're postmenopausal


C. Even though the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women be tested starting at age 65 (unless you have a risk factor for the disease), many experts urge getting tested sooner. And given that more than three out of four women have never spoken with their physician about osteoporosis prevention, bringing up the topic earlier will help keep you standing tall. "You need your first test, which is used as a baseline, to be given around the time you're going through menopause," suggests Dr. Marks, who notes that bone mass drops rapidly after menopause. "Considering the results and your lifestyle behaviors, your doctor will determine when the next test should take place."

Read more about the Natural Osteoporosis Foundation here

4. Your chances of bone loss increase if you...

A. start menopause before age 45

B. participate in high-impact sports, like basketball

C. have more than three children

D. consume too much calcium


A. "During the first five years after menopause, women lose 2% to 2.5% of their bone mass annually," explains Dr. Marks. "After that, it's about 1% to 2% a year." So if menopause hits early, you'll be losing bone for a longer time. While you can't control when those hot flashes begin, you can be mindful of your diet and exercise to keep your body strong.

5. Which food has the least calcium?

A. 1.5 cups of cooked, frozen spinach

B. 3 slices of low-fat American cheese

C. 1 cup of fortified orange juice

D. 1 cup of fat-free plain yogurt


B. More than one-third of Americans ages 31 to 50 aren't getting the daily recommended amount of calcium, which is 1,000 mg for women 19 to 50. That may be because many of us are unaware of our food options. Even the cheese, which has the least calcium of the options on this nutrient-rich list, still offers 312 mg. The biggest payoff is the yogurt, at 452 mg for just 127 calories. And if you're lactose intolerant, you'll still do well choosing the spinach (417 mg) or OJ (350 mg).

6. None of these habits are good for your bones, but the most dangerous is...

A. smoking cigarettes

B. drinking too much soda

C. consuming too much alcohol

D. wearing your cell phone on your hip


A. Even exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood and early adulthood puts you at risk for low bone mass. (So make sure whoever's running the carpool isn't lighting up at the wheel.) Smokers tend to have poorer diets and start menopause earlier, leading to greater bone loss over a lifetime. Also, people who puff away usually miss out on the protective benefit of exercise. "If you smoke, you're probably not taking a good-for-you-and-your-bones 2-mile walk," says Dr. Marks, who is also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Read more about the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

7. Which home hazard is most likely to lead to a fracture- or break-causing slip or fall?

A. a switch located too far from the entrance to a living room

B. throw rugs in a hallway

C. a too-low or too-high bed

D. no grip bars in the bathroom


B. While the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house for people over 65, that hallway throw rug will trip up the rest of us. "A lot of people walk around in socks. They slip on wood floors or the throw rug because there's no traction," explains Dr. Marks. Get a nonslip rug pad, and ditch those socks for slippers with grips.

How Did You Score?

6-7 Correct: Woman of Steel. Now work on educating others, whether that means nudging your kids to drink their milk or grabbing your husband for a Saturday morning power walk.

4-5 Correct: Bone Up a Bit. Visit AmericanBoneHealth.org for a rundown of what you need to know, new research on osteoporosis, a fracture risk calculator and more.


3 or Fewer Correct: Breaking Bad. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your bone health and how to maximize your strength.

Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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