Prevention of Osteoporosis


Prevention list: Methods of prevention of Osteoporosis mentioned in various sources includes those listed below. This prevention information is gathered from various sources, and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Osteoporosis.

  • Bone density screening tests - early detection of bone thinning by ultrasound can help prevent severe osteoporosis
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Estrogen replacement therapy - for menopausal women
  • Bisphosphonates
    • Alendronate (Fosamax®)
    • Risedronate (Actonel®)
  • Raloxifene (Evista®) - a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)
  • Build-up of bone mass in early years to prevent osteoporosis when older

Prevention of Osteoporosis: Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation and may prevent many forms of bone loss associated with aging. 1

Osteoporosis is usually preventable. Females need to take steps to protect the health of their bones while they are still children, and on through their teenage and young adult years. Building strong bones at a young age will lessen the effect of the natural bone loss that begins to occur around age 30.

Eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, fish with edible bones like salmon and sardines, and dark green, leafy vegetables, like kale and broccoli. Do weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, hiking, playing tennis, and stair climbing. Exercise builds bone and muscle strength and helps prevent bone loss and improves coordination to prevent falls. It also helps older people stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises, done on a regular basis, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you are postmenopausal, consider estrogen replacement. Consider using calcium supplements, but discuss the choice of supplements with your doctor first. Don't smoke. Limit alcoholic beverages.

What is the optimal calcium intake for women in different stages of their life?

Diet, hormones, drugs, age and genetic factors all influence the amount of calcium required for optimal skeletal health. Recommendations vary slightly. Based upon the most recent recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences (1997) on optimal daily calcium intake, the following amounts are recommended for these different age groups:

Recommended daily intake of calcium for women.
Ages Milligrams per day of Calcium
9 - 18 1300
19 - 50 1000
51 and older 1200**

Recommended daily intake of calcium for women who are pregnant or lactating.
Ages Milligrams per day of Calcium
Up to 18 years old 1300
19 - 50 1000

**NOTE: The National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference and The National Osteoporosis Foundation support a higher calcium intake of 1,500 milligrams per day for postmenopausal women not taking estrogen and adults 65 years or older.

The guidelines are based on calcium received through diet and through calcium supplements. Calcium intake up to 2,000 mg/day appears to be safe in most individuals. Adequate Vitamin D is essential for optimal calcium absorption. Most people receive enough Vitamin D through sunlight. You can also get this vitamin from supplements, as well as from cereal and milk fortified with Vitamin D. If supplements are necessary, no more than 800 International Units (IU) mg/day is recommended. 2

The good news is that the risk of osteoporosis can be lowered. First, get plenty of calcium and vitamin D, both before and after menopause. Second, exercising often may also help keep muscles and bones strong and lessen the chance of falls and broken bones. Aim for 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, or weight lifting 3 days a week or more. Third, taking estrogen or one of several other drugs available will also prevent further loss of bone. Drugs approved for osteoporosis by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include raloxifene, alendronate, and calcitonin.3

Osteoporosis is preventable. A diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D and a lifestyle that includes regular weight-bearing exercise are the best ways to prevent weakened bones in later life.

Calcium. Getting enough calcium all through your life helps to build and keep strong bones. In 1997 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) suggested that people from age 31 to 50 get 1000 mg (milligrams) of calcium each day. People over 50 should get 1200 mg daily. To do this, make foods that are high in calcium part of your diet. Some healthy foods that have a lot of calcium are:

  • Low-fat dairy foods such as cheese, yogurt, and milk
  • Canned fish with bones you can eat, such as salmon and sardines
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, and broccoli
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Breads made with calcium-fortified flour

Three to four servings each day from the dairy group will give you about 1200 mg of calcium. A serving is 1 cup of milk, pudding, or yogurt; 1-1/2 ounces of cheese; or 2 cups of cottage cheese. Try to use low- or non-fat foods.

If you think you need to take a supplement to get enough calcium, check with your doctor first. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are good forms of calcium supplement. Be careful not to get more than 2000 mg of calcium a day very often. That amount can increase your chance of developing kidney problems.

Vitamin D. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. Being out in the sun for a total of 20 minutes every day helps most people’s bodies make enough vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish, and cereal and milk fortified with vitamin D, as well as from supplements. According to the NAS, people age 51 to 70 should have 400 IU (international unit) each day and those over 70 should have 600 IU. More than 2000 IU of vitamin D each day may cause harm to your liver and even lower bone mass.

Exercise. Exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. It also helps you stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises, done three to four times a week, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises. Strengthening and balance exercises may help you avoid falls and lessen your chance of breaking a bone.

There is no such thing as being “too old” or “too frail” to do some sort of exercise. You might want to check with your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program if you are a man over 40 or a woman over 50 or if you have a chronic condition, a family history of certain health problems, or any other concerns.

Medication. Some medicines can cause loss of bone mass. These include glucocorticoids which are used to control diseases such as arthritis and asthma, some antiseizure drugs, certain sleeping pills, some hormones used to treat endometriosis, and some cancer drugs. An overactive thyroid gland can also be a problem. If you are taking these medicines, talk to your doctor about what can be done to protect your bones.

Other Lifestyle Prevention Steps. Avoid smoking. Smoking causes your body to make less estrogen which protects the bones. Also limit how much alcohol you drink. Too much alcohol can damage your bones, as well as put you at risk for falling and breaking a bone.4

1. excerpt from Physical Activity and Weight Control: NIDDK
2. excerpt from Osteoporosis: NWHIC
3. excerpt from Menopause - Age Page - Health Information: NIA
4. excerpt from Osteoporosis - Age Page - Health Information: NIA

Last revision: June 5, 2003

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