How Can I Prevent Osteoporosis?

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on December 04, 2020

Osteoporosis affects about 8 million women and 2 million men in the United States. The word itself means porous bones -- they aren’t solid, and that makes them weak. It causes more than 1.5 million broken bones a year in the United States. But there are things you can do to lower your chances of getting this bone disease.

Watch What You Eat

Calcium gives strength to your bones. Eat foods rich in calcium like nonfat milk, low-fat yogurt, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, sesame seeds, almonds, and leafy green vegetables. Many juices, breakfast foods, snacks, and breads are now fortified with calcium.

Protein from plants is good, too. Eat soy products, especially tofu, because they’re high in protein. Lentils, kidney beans, grains, nuts, and seeds are other good sources. Protein helps keep your muscles healthy, and they support your bones.

Cut back on red meats and soft drinks, alcohol, and caffeine. All of these can interfere with how your body absorbs calcium.

Take What You Need

If you don’t get enough calcium from food, you can ask your doctor about supplements. Most people should get about 1,000 milligrams a day. But if you’re a man over 70 or a postmenopausal women, you should aim for 1,200 milligrams.

Some people take antacids for calcium, but don’t use ones that contain aluminum. They can slow or stop your body from absorbing calcium. Some over-the-counter antacids are aluminum-free and OK to take.

Medications for osteoporosis can help maintain or build bone. They’re recommended if you’re at high risk of getting it or already have it. Ask your doctor if these make sense for you.

Be Active

Do weight-bearing exercises for 30 to 45 minutes at least three times a week. Focus on exercises that improve your posture, strengthen your hips, back, and legs, and improve how you move. These exercises also can help you stay steady on your feet.

Don’t Smoke

Studies show you raise your risk of having osteoporosis and broken bones when you smoke.

WebMD Medical Reference



National Osteoporosis Foundation:  “Bone Health Basics: Get the Facts.”

National Osteoporosis Foundation:  “What Women Need to Know.”

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases:  “Osteoporosis Overview.”

International Osteoporosis Foundation:  “Nutrition.”

Department of Health and Human Services: "Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2004."

National Institutes of Health:  “Calcium.”

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: "What Is Bone?"

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