As the body ages, it’s increasingly at risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition in which weak or porous bones can lead to painful fractures of the hips, wrist, and spine. Take these simple, practical steps to improve your bone health and protect your body.

Osteoporosis causes bones to thin and become brittle and weak. The thinning bones can collapse during normal activity, leading to a spinal fracture. Osteoporosis: The Primary Cause of Collapsed Vertebrae

Consume plenty of calcium

Calcium helps to keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. It is recommended you get 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium daily, and the only way to do it is through diet.

  1. Have fortified oatmeal for breakfast
    One pack of unsweetened instant oatmeal has over 180 mg of calcium, about 15% of the daily recommended amount. Get the kind that has added nutrients but no added sugar. Combine whole milk, almond milk, or yogurt with your oatmeal for extra calcium.

    See Calcium Requirements for Kids' Growing Bones

  2. Try canned seafood
    Canned sardines, shrimp, and salmon are all packed with calcium and high in protein. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, too.

    See Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back

  3. Eat more nuts, beans, and leafy greens
    Almonds, Brazil nuts, and pistachios are all rich sources of calcium. Put a few handfuls in a small plastic bag and keep it nearby to snack on. Traditional baked beans and white beans both provide a bunch of calcium. Eat them on their own, or add them to a low-sodium soup. Leafy greens, too, offer a lot of calcium. Collard greens, kale, bok choy, and raw spinach are all good options.

    See Calcium Is Needed for Strong Bones

  4. Take a calcium supplement
    If your diet alone doesn’t help you to reach the daily recommended amount of calcium, talk to a doctor or pharmacist about adding over-the-counter calcium supplements to your daily routine.

    See Sources of Calcium in Food

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Increase your Vitamin D intake

Vitamin D helps your body hold onto bone-strengthening nutrients. Without enough vitamin D, your bones may weaken, increasing the risk of fracture.

  1. Eat cereal fortified with vitamin D, eggs, and fatty fish (such as salmon)
    These food options are all ways to get the recommended amount of vitamin D, which is 800 international units (IU) per day.

    See Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements

  2. Get at least 5 to 10 minutes of daily sun exposure
    Spending a little time in the sunlight helps your body to absorb vitamin D naturally.

Participate in weight-bearing exercise

  1. Go for a walk or jog
    The pace and frequency of your walks or jogs are up to you. Your doctor or certified personal trainer can help you decide what is appropriate. Typically 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week, is recommended.

    See Techniques for Effective Exercise Walking

  2. Climb stairs, do bench steps or jumping exercises
    These activities can be a step up in intensity from walking or jogging. They are great for strengthening your bones and getting a vigorous aerobic workout.
  3. Do resistance or strength training
    A session of lifting, pushing, and pulling weights (or resistance bands) 2 to 3 times per week is good for your bones and promotes overall health.

    See Regular Weight-Bearing Exercise

Make lifestyle changes

  1. Quit smoking
    Smoking may be a significant risk factor for bone loss. Not only that, smokers are shown to display poorer balance than non-smokers, raising the chances of falling and breaking a bone.1

    See Ways to Quit Smoking

  2. Avoid excessive alcohol use
    Heavy alcohol consumption interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and regulate calcium, vitamin D, and hormones. It may also increase your risk of bone density loss and bone fracture.2

    See Lifestyle and Diet Tips for Healthy Bones

Consider putting some or all of these tips into practice. They may help to strengthen your bones and protect your body against osteoporosis.

Learn more:

Osteoporosis in Men

Diagnosing Vertebral Compression Fractures

References:

  1. Wong PKK, Christie JJ, Wark JD. The effects of smoking on bone health. Clinical Science. 2007;113(5):233-241.
  2. Jang H-D, Hong J-Y, Han K, et al. Relationship between bone mineral density and alcohol intake: A nationwide health survey analysis of postmenopausal women. Plos One. 2017;12(6).>
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