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School of Medicine
What You Can Do Now to Prevent Osteoporosis
Did you know that that 50 percent of women in the U.S. age 50 or older will break a bone due to osteoporosis?
Overall, about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis—a gradual thinning out of the bones—or low bone density, which may lead to fracture.
Women typically start out with lower bone density than men, and loss of estrogen over time can increase the risk for osteoporosis.
But there is good news: In some cases, osteoporosis can be preventable. The sooner you start keeping your bones healthy, the better off you will be in your 50s and beyond.
Keep Bones Healthy Through Your Diet
Get the Right Amount of Calcium
When it comes to calcium, more is not always better. You should strive to hit the daily intake recommendation:
- 1,000 mg for women 50 and younger
- 1,200 mg for women 51 and older
With well-balanced nutrition, you may be able to get most of the necessary calcium from your diet and fill in the rest with supplements. As a matter of fact, you could be eating more calcium than you think!
Try calculating your daily intake by reading nutritional labels. Remember, these labels are based on a daily allowance of 1000 mg, so if the label says, “25% of daily calcium,” that means you’re getting 250 mg of calcium per serving, just add a zero.
Don’t Forget Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and use it to strengthen your bones. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, your liver and kidneys are responsible for making vitamin D. However, most of us can’t rely solely on the sun to get our daily dosage for many reasons: indoor living, sunscreen, skin tone, seasonal changes, etc. Non-fortified foods are also limited in vitamin D.
Your goal should be:
- 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day if you are 70 or younger
- 800 IU if you are 71 or older
Because many women don’t hit the recommended dosage of vitamin D through sun exposure and diet, supplements may be needed to meet this goal.
Protein Is Important for Bone Health, Too
Protein is in every cell in your body, including your bones. Studies have shown that eating protein increases bone mineral density. The recommended daily protein intake is 0.4 grams per pound of body weight. So, if you’re a 140-lb. woman, you need about 60 grams of protein per day. Protein can be found in animal or nonanimal food sources.
Most of us know that exercise is good for fitness, but did you know it’s great for bone health, too? Exercise helps stimulate the cells responsible for building bones.
But not just any exercise will do. To promote bone health, try doing weight-bearing and resistance exercises 3 or 4 days a week.
- Weight-bearing exercises focus on carrying the weight of your body against gravity. Walking is a great weight-bearing activity, as are running, dancing, aerobics, hiking and tennis.
- Resistance exercises use an opposing force, such as weights, an elastic band, or water, to strengthen your muscles and build bone. Having strong muscles and good balance may also help you avoid falls or minimize injury.
Build Healthy Life Habits
The choices you make, beginning as early as childhood, can affect your bone health in the future. To protect it, consider making the following adjustments to your lifestyle:
- Quit smoking.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Stay active.
Think you may not be hitting all the recommended daily nutritional values for optimal bone health? Worried about other factors in your life that might contribute to bone loss? Talk to your doctor about what you can do now to help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures in the future.