How to Prevent Osteoporosis and Keep Your Bones Strong

Calcium + Bone Health

How to Prevent Osteoporosis and Keep Your Bones Strong

Test Your Bone IQ: Are Your Bones Strong and Healthy?

Strong bones depend on many things, take this quick test to determine if you are at risk for the bone thinning disease osteoporosis:

  • Are you female?
  • Do you have a family history of osteoporosis (sibling, parent or grandparent) or broken hips?
  • Are you often on a diet to lose weight?
  • Do you do weight-bearing activities (running, walking, weight training) less than three times a week?
  • Do you get less than 15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) daily?
  • Have you gone through menopause without estrogen replacement therapy?
  • Do you eat less than 3 servings of high-calcium foods every day? (One serving = 1 cup of milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified orange juice, 1 1/2 oz. of cheddar cheese)

The more you answered "yes," the more your bones are at risk. Some of these things you cannot change, but others you can—for example, getting enough calcium from the foods you eat and drink every day. If you are interested in taking a harder quiz, try Bone Up On Milk!

How Much Calcium Do I Need to Build Strong Bones?

Calcium is one of the minerals that helps build strong bones, especially during childhood and young adulthood. Our bones become less dense as we age, but if you've built up bone mass early in life, the loss is less likely to cause devastating problems later in life. Getting enough calcium also helps to maintain the bone mass you have in your later years. Following are the current calcium recommendations for adults:

Age

Calcium (mg/day)

19-50

1000

51-70 men

1000

51-70 women

1200

70+

1200

 

Vitamin D also plays an important role in healthy bones by helping absorb calcium from the gut (this is why milk is fortified with vitamin D).

What is the best way to get enough calcium from my diet and ensure I'm building strong bones?

The best natural food sources of calcium are milk, cheese and yogurt, which provide two-thirds of the calcium in the American diet. Each serving of milk and dairy foods provides about 300 mg of calcium needed be build bone density. Other food sources of calcium include broccoli, almonds, tofu and beans. Do you know how much broccoli it takes to equal a glass of milk? The Calcium Quiz can help you figure out if you are getting enough calcium from the foods you eat everyday.

However, it is not just specific nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D that are responsible for bone health.  A whole “package of nutrients” – calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins B12 and D, protein and zinc – are involved in bone health. This is why getting our nutrients from food sources, rather than from individual supplements, is your best bet. 

Consuming a well-balanced diet of a variety of foods, including dairy products and other calcium-rich foods, fruits and vegetables, grains and meat or beans on a daily basis is the best way to ensure an adequate intake of all these important bone-building nutrients.

Does Milk Prevent Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become brittle and are more likely to break in your older years. If not prevented or if undetected, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. Women are at increased risk because their bones are less dense to start with, and hormonal changes after menopause make them lose bone mass faster. However, men are also at risk for osteoporosis; up to one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis leads to an increase risk of bone fractures typically in the wrist, hip, and spine. A broken hip almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. It can impair a person's ability to walk unassisted and may cause long-term or permanent disability or even death.

The good news is, osteoporosis is preventable in most people. You can improve your bone health, even in your older years, through weight-bearing exercise and eating the right foods. A very large body of evidence establishes that adequate calcium consumption throughout life augments bone gain during growth, prevents fracture, retards age-related bone loss, and reduces risk of osteoporosis.1

Milk and dairy foods help build bone density. Dairy sources of calcium are more effective than calcium supplements due to dairy’s unique package of nutrients (vitamin D, protein, magnesium phosphorus, potassium) that are the right proportions for healthy bones.

 

  1. NIH Consensus Development Program. Consensus Statements. Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Therapy. Vol. 17, No. 1. March 27-29, 2000. (JAMA 285: 785-795, 2001) http://consensus.nih.gov/historical.htm.