4 Best Ways to Prevent Osteoporosis
Medically Reviewed by Carolin Schneider, MD
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones weak and more likely to break. It affects millions of Americans, and it’s most common in older women. The early stages of this disease have no symptoms, so many people with osteoporosis don’t know they have it. In fact, the first sign of a problem is often a broken bone.
The good news is that you can take effective steps to help prevent this condition. Learn about four key ways to protect your bones as you get older.
1. Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for keeping bones strong and healthy. The best way to get these nutrients is from food. You can get calcium from foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens and sardines. Milk and many breakfast cereals have vitamin D added to them, and it’s also in fatty fish like tuna and salmon. Your body can also make vitamin D from sunlight.
If you’re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D, you may need to take a supplement. Just be careful how much you take — vitamin D and calcium can be harmful in large amounts. Ask your doctor if you need a calcium or vitamin D supplement and how much is safe and healthy for you to take.
2. Get Regular Physical Activity
One of the best ways to keep your bones strong and healthy is to be physically active. Do weight-bearing activities like walking or jogging to put healthy pressure on your bones. Then add in strength-training activities like squats and bicep curls to keep your muscles and bones strong.
Try to exercise for half an hour at least five times a week. But if that’s too much, do as much as you can! Any amount of physical activity is better than nothing, and you can work up to more over time.
3. Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol
Smoking can make your bones less dense and increase your risk of a bone fracture. Smoking decreases blood flow to your bones and makes it harder for them to absorb calcium. People who smoke also don’t heal as quickly, so it’s harder to recover from fractures if they do happen.
Drinking alcohol is also linked to lower bone density because it prevents bones from absorbing calcium. Studies show that people who drink heavily are more likely to have osteoporosis.
4. Get a Bone Density Test
Bone density tests use X-rays to measure the amount of calcium and other minerals in your bones. They’re the best way to find osteoporosis early, before you have a break or fracture. That way, you can take steps to stop the disease from getting worse.
All women ages 65 and older need a bone density test to check for osteoporosis. If you’re younger than age 65 but you’ve gone through menopause or are concerned about your risk, ask your doctor if you need a bone density test.
If the test shows you have osteoporosis, your doctor can recommend lifestyle changes or medicines to slow down bone loss.