Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to a decrease in bone density and mass. Prevention strategies, such as changing diet and other lifestyle changes, can help reduce the chances of developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that occurs when bone mass and bone density decrease. It may lead to a reduction in bone strength, which increases a person’s risk of broken bones.

In the United States, about 10 million people age 50 and over have osteoporosis. The incidence is higher in females than males. Also, slightly over 43 million people have low bone mass, which puts them at further risk of developing the condition.

Here are methods to help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Read on to learn more about strategies that may help prevent osteoporosis, including regular physical activity, such as exercise, medications, and diet.

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Calcium is a mineral that helps build bones and keep them strong. Getting enough calcium is essential to prevent osteoporosis. People lose calcium through their sweat, urine, and skin. The body does not make calcium. This means individuals get the mineral from the foods they eat or supplements.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • fortified products, such as juices and non-dairy milk
  • almonds
  • tofu

The recommended daily amount of calcium for adults through either food, supplements, or both includes:

  • Females age 50 and younger: 1,000 milligrams (mg)
  • Females age 51 and older: 1,200 mg
  • Males age 70 and younger: 1,000 mg
  • Males age 71 and older: 1,200 mg

Adequate protein helps preserve bone mass with aging. In older adults with osteoporosis, doctors may suggest a protein intake greater than 0.8 grams/kilograms per body weight (g/kg), which is the recommended dietary allowance. Foods high in protein include:

  • poultry
  • fish
  • eggs
  • lentils
  • nuts and seeds

It is important to talk with a doctor or nutritionist about specific protein recommendations. Certain medical conditions may affect the amount of protein a person needs.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and helps prevent osteoporosis. Two types of vitamin D, including D2 and D3, are good for bone health.

Foods rich in vitamin D include:

  • fish oils
  • egg yolks
  • liver
  • fortified cereals

The recommended vitamin D intake for adults includes 600 international units per day (IU/day) for adults under age 70 and 800 IU/day for those who are 70 years or older.

Maintaining a moderate weight is part of an overall health-promoting plan. When it comes to osteoporosis, studies remain inconsistent on the role of obesity and the risk of osteoporosis.

For instance, a 2020 review suggests a link between visceral adiposity and lower bone mass. Visceral adiposity refers to fat around the abdominal organs.

However, the review also states some research indicates that individuals with a larger waist circumference are less likely to develop osteoporosis. Still, for overall health, maintaining a healthy weight for you is beneficial.

Weight bearing exercise is the most important form of exercise in preventing osteoporosis. This type of exercise helps activate bone cells to help make weaker areas stronger.

Some studies suggest exercise may help bone mineral density in certain parts of the body better than others. For instance, a 2020 meta-analysis indicates that exercise improves lumbar spine bone density better than it improves hip bone mineral density.

Good weight bearing exercises include:

  • walking
  • hiking
  • climbing stairs
  • lifting weights
  • running

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), smoking is a significant contributor to osteoporosis. It decreases bone formation and can slow the healing of fractures. Quitting smoking may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Excess alcohol may also harm the bones. Plus, heavy alcohol intake may also increase the risk of falls, leading to a fracture. Consider limiting alcohol to 1 drink daily for females and 2 drinks daily for men.

Preventing falls helps reduce the risk of broken bones. Broken bones can lead to decreased physical activity and additional bone loss. Preventing falls takes a multifaceted approach and includes:

  • exercises to improve balance
  • reducing fall risks in the home by securing rugs, reducing clutter, improving lighting, and adding handrails
  • addressing medical issues that affect balance
  • getting enough sleep
  • using an assisted device, such as a cane or walker, as necessary

A bone health assessment, such as a bone density test, helps measure the amount of calcium in the bones. This test helps diagnose osteoporosis or osteopenia. Osteopenia involves weakened bones but is not as severe as osteoporosis.

Read on to learn more about the differences between osteoporosis and osteopenia.

Having a bone health assessment can let someone know their risk for osteoporosis and enable them to take steps to prevent the condition from worsening.

Having certain medical conditions may also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. Both the disease itself and the medications to treat it may affect bone health.

For example, conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and hyperthyroidism can affect bone strength. As such, good management of these conditions may help prevent osteoporosis.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the following medications for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis:

  • Bisphosphonates: This class of medications helps maintain bone strength and density by slowing bone loss.
  • Estrogen agonist/antagonist: These drugs have an estrogen-like effect on certain tissue in the body. It may prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal females by improving bone density.
  • Calcitonin: Doctors may recommend this drug, made from the thyroid gland hormone, for postmenopausal females who cannot take other medications for osteoporosis.
  • Estrogen and hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Estrogen and HRT may include estrogen and progestin to prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal females.
  • Parathyroid hormone analog and parathyroid hormone related-protein analog: This hormone increases bone mass. The FDA approved it as a treatment in postmenopausal females and males at high risk of a fracture due to osteoporosis.
  • RANK ligand inhibitor: This medication slows down bone loss.
  • Monoclonal antibodies: Examples such as romosozumab are available as a monthly injection and can help increase bone mass.

Osteoporosis is a condition that develops when bone mass and bone density decrease. It increases the risk of a bone fracture.

There are ways people can prevent osteoporosis or decrease its severity. Prevention strategies include weight bearing exercise, adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, and medications. Lifestyle habits, such as not smoking, maintaining a moderate weight, and limiting alcohol intake, may also help.