While osteoporosis is common as one ages, getting older doesn’t mean osteoporosis will develop.
Throughout life, eating a balanced diet and getting adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D from food and/or supplements helps to keep bones strong.
• Calcium: In addition to milk, cheese and yogurt, good sources of calcium are canned sardines and salmon (with bones), and dark green vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Calcium-fortified foods, such as some types of bread and juices, are also available. Experts recommend 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day for premenopausal women and 1,200 milligrams for postmenopausal women. For men age 70 and younger, the recommended total daily intake of elemental calcium is 1,000 milligrams and men age 71 and over should consume 1,200 milligrams daily.
Supplements are only advised when the recommended amount of daily calcium cannot be obtained through diet. If your diet does not provide enough calcium, ask your doctor if calcium supplements are right for you.
• Vitamin D: In order for the body to absorb calcium, Vitamin D is needed. Twenty minutes of exposure to the sun each day helps ensure that the body produces Vitamin D, but not everyone can get sun exposure – especially in the winter. Dietary sources of Vitamin D include eggs, fatty fish like salmon, fortified milk and cereal and Vitamin D supplements. To optimize bone health, the The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends both men and women under the age 50 take 400–800 international units (IU) of Vitamin D daily. Men and women aged 50 and over are recommended to take 800-1000 IU daily.
Limit caffeine and alcohol: Coffee, tea and soft drinks with caffeine can decrease calcium absorption. Excess alcohol consumption has also been shown to have an adverse effect on bone health.
Exercise: Regular exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps to prevent bone loss. Both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises can help prevent osteoporosis and promote the ability to stay active.
Weight-bearing exercise, which should be done at least three or four times a week, includes such activities as walking, jogging/running, dancing, high-impact aerobics, playing tennis, jumping rope, hiking and stair-climbing. Lower impact exercises can also help keep bones strong and are a safe alternative for people who cannot do high-impact exercises. Some examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises are elliptical training machines, low-impact aerobics, stair-step machines and fast walking.
Muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights or using elastic exercise bands, cause skeletal muscle to pull against the bone, which results in the bone rebuilding and becoming denser. Muscle-strengthening exercises should be done two to three days per week.
Tai Chi can help improve balance and prevent falls; and posture exercises are good for reducing rounded shoulders, which decreases the chance of breaking a bone. Yoga and Pilates may be beneficial for some people – but before beginning either, a physical therapist should be consulted .
Note that too much exercise can be detrimental for women, however, because it can cause a drop in estrogen, which is needed for bone health.
The most common medications to prevent and treat osteoporosis are medicines that slow the loss of bone called antiresorptive medicines. These include bisphosphonates (Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel), calcitonin, estrogen, estrogen agonists/antagonists (SERM) and RANK ligand inhibitor (Prolia).
It is also recommended that the preventative measures listed above be adopted to preserve bone density as much as possible.