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How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis Prevention

Although most osteoporosis risk factors like age and health history cannot be controlled, there are steps you can take to help prevent or at least slow down bone loss. Changes in diet and exercise can increase your calcium levels and help maintain the bone mass already in place.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Anyone at risk for osteoporosis should monitor their calcium and vitamin D intake. Calcium helps build and maintain bone and vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You can get calcium from foods, supplements, or a combination of the two.

Daily Recommendations

If you use supplements, keep in mind that calcium is best absorbed in individual doses no larger than 500 to 600 milligrams (mg). It’s best for adults to take doses twice or three times per day. See the chart below for recommendations from the National Institutes of Health regarding daily calcium and vitamin intake. (Note: "IU" refers to international units.)

AgeCalciumVitamin D
0 to 6 months210 mg200 IU
7 to 12 months270 mg200 IU
1 to 3 years500 mg200 IU
4 to 8 years800 mg200 IU
9 to 18 years1,300 mg200 IU
19 to 50 years1,000 mg200 IU
51 to 70 years1,200 mg400 IU
Over 70 years1,200 mg600 IU

There are also many excellent dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D:

  • dairy: Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • fortified foods: Certain common foods and beverages are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. They include certain brands of breakfast cereals, juice, and bread. Check the label to see if these nutrients have been added.
  • leafy green vegetables: Kale, broccoli, okra, collard greens, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, and turnip greens all contain calcium.

Weight-Bearing Exercises

Bones need resistance to grow strong, which is why weight-bearing exercises are not only good for your muscles, but also your bones. Activities and fitness equipment that help strengthen bone include:

  • free weights
  • weight machines
  • resistance bands, which you can use at the gym, at home, and while traveling
  • walking or jogging
  • dancing
  • low-impact aerobics (elliptical training, swimming, or biking)

Smoking and Drinking

Both excessive intake of alcohol and smoking increase your risk of osteoporosis. It’s best to limit alcohol consumption to two drinks per day. A 6-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce bottle of beer, or a 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor are all considered one standard drink. If you are a smoker, get some assistance to kick the habit as soon as possible. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, old adults who smoke are 30 to 40 percent more likely to break their hips.

Handle With Care

If you already have osteoporosis, take the above preventive measures and try to avoid unnecessary risks of fractures. Hire someone to clean the house gutters so you won’t risk falling from a ladder. Clear the pathways through your home to eliminate any tripping hazards. Be wary of slippery steps and walkways. And use a cane or walker if you feel it would keep you safer. You can check the National Osteoporosis Foundation for gentle sitting, turning, and standing postures that can protect your hips and spine. The site is also a good source for finding bone-friendly exercise activities.

Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Oct 06, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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