The Good News About Bone Health
Education & Research Although 54 million Americans have either osteoporosis or osteopenia—low bone mass—there is still a lot of good news to share about our national approach to bone health.
Regardless of age, there are specific lifestyle factors that can positively influence bone health, resulting not only in stronger bones, but a lower risk of osteoporosis. Another plus: The same habits that strengthen bones, improve overall health.
Specific strategies that support the integrity and strength bones include:
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D
National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) guidelines recommend that women 50 and younger consume at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day, while those over 50 need more—1,200 mg per day. Likewise, the NOF recommends 1,000 mg of calcium per day for men 70 and younger, and 1,200 mg per day for men older than 70.
"Making the right lifestyle choices decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis, while medical intervention, combined with bone-healthy living, can decrease the risk of fracture."
Because the body can't absorb calcium without vitamin D—and because vitamin D is associated with other health benefits—vitamin D consumption, though a combination of fortified food or beverages, fatty fish and supplements is necessary. The NOF recommends that men and women 50 and under consume between 400 IU and 800 IU of vitamin D per day. Over age 50, everyone needs at least 800 IU to 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily. It should be noted that the body makes vitamin D in response to sun exposure.
Nutrition also plays an important role in bone health, just as it does in overall health. Bone-healthy foods include low-fat milk and yogurt, cheese and certain green vegetables, such as kale and spinach. As for vitamin D, fatty fish and fortified foods are good sources, however, supplements are recommended as a way to bridge the gap between consumption and guidelines, for both calcium and vitamin D.
Exercise, specifically, weight-bearing and muscle-building exercise is good for bone health. That covers a lot of territory, including dancing, brisk walking, weightlifting, playing tennis, working out on cardio machines and lots of other areas. Another plus: The benefits of exercise are full-body and extend beyond bone health.
For those who already have osteoporosis, lifestyle factors are a critical part of staying as healthy as possible, while also decreasing the risk of fracture. In fact, combining medical interventions with healthy lifestyle habits is the best way to maximize bone health. Depending on a patient’s profile, a physician will prescribe a medication from one of the following categories: calcitonin, hormone therapy, bisphosphonates or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).
The takeaway: Making the right lifestyle choices decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis, while medical intervention, combined with bone-healthy living, can decrease the risk of fracture. Plus, what’s good for your bones is good for your overall health—and that’s good news.