Your lovely bones

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How to prevent osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bones, making them weak and brittle. They can become so weak that a fall or even mild stress to the bone can result in a fracture.

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is essential to building strong, dense bones when you're young and to keeping them strong and healthy as you age.

Take these other important steps to help prevent osteoporosis.

Boost your bone strength

Stay active. Weight-bearing exercises (such as walking, jogging, or dancing) and resistance training (lifting weights or using resistance band) help keep your bones strong. You should exercise a minimum of 3 times a week for 30 minutes. The benefits of exercise are quickly lost if you stop exercising. Finding a regular exercise regimen that you enjoy improves your changes of keeping up the habit over the long term.

Eat right for your bones. The best way to meet your calcium and vitamin D needs is through the foods you eat. (Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and turn it into bone.) Take supplements only as needed to make up for any shortfall. There is no added benefit to taking more calcium or vitamin D than you need in supplements, and doing so may even have some risks. Daily dietary recommendations are:

Children 4 to 81,000 mg
Teens 9 to 181,300 mg
Adults younger than 501,000 mg
Postmenopausal women1,200 mg
Men 50 and older1,200 mg

AgeVitamin D*

Adults younger than 50

600 IU
Pre- and postmenopausal women1,000 IU
Men 50 and older1,000 IU

IU = international units

* This includes the amount you get from food and supplements.

Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium. One cup of nonfat milk contains 300 mg of calcium — a quarter of your daily recommended intake. You can find lactose-free dairy goods at most grocery stores.

Nondairy calcium-rich foods like green vegetables or fortified foods such as cereals, orange juice, and unsweetened soy and almond milk can also supply your calcium needs. Many of these foods also include vitamin D to help with calcium's absorption. Other foods that offer the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk include:

  • 1¾ cups of kale
  • 1¼ cups of bok choy
  • 2½ cups of broccoli
  • 1 cup of turnip greens
  • 1½ cups of mustard greens
  • ½ cup of calcium processed tofu

Cut down on caffeine, salt, and alcohol. Caffeine, alcohol, and salt can reduce bone strength by causing you to lose more calcium when you urinate. Experts recommend:

  • Drinking no more than 3 cups of coffee and 1 alcoholic drink a day
  • Limiting your salt intake to under 2,000 mg of sodium (less than 1 teaspoon of salt) a day

If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces bone strength. Try Breathe, an award-winning program that gives you a personal plan to stop smoking, manage withdrawal, and handle cravings.

Pay attention to falls prevention

Give your home a safety checkup. In older adults, falls commonly cause fractures of major bones, especially the hip, leg, wrist, and spine. Older people who break a hip seldom regain full mobility and independence. You can prevent most falls. Watch our video to find out how to make your home safer.

Talk to your doctor about bone density testing. Are you past menopause? Your doctor may request BMD tests and use the FRAX® toolKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.  to check your bone density and predict your risk of a fracture. If your fracture risk is considered high, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce the risk of fractures.

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, work with your doctor to determine an appropriate treatment plan that may include calcium, vitamin D, safe exercise, and medication.

Reviewed by: Brenda Jackson, CNM, December 2018