Skip to content

Osteoporosis Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Living With Osteoporosis

Our expert gives four ways to protect and strengthen your bones.
By Christina Boufis
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

If you're one of the 34 million Americans (women and men) who are at risk for the disease, you know that strengthening and protecting your bones is crucial. Osteoporosis means porous bones that weaken and can fracture with even minor incidents.

Some 55% of people 50 and older have osteoporosis or reduced bone mass. But "you can live with osteoporosis for a long, long time and never have complications such as fractures -- if you take certain precautions," says Felicia Cosman, MD, osteoporosis expert and medical director of the clinical research center at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, N.Y.

Recommended Related to Osteoporosis

Symptoms of a Spinal Compression Fracture

It is important to identify the symptoms of spinal compression fractures and notify your doctor right away. Sudden, severe back pain, especially in older women, may signal a spinal compression fracture or another serious condition. Anyone with significant back pain -- especially a woman who is near or over age 50 -- should see a doctor. Most compression fractures in women over 50 are due to osteoporosis and treatment can help reduce the chance of further compression fractures. One or more symp...

Read the Symptoms of a Spinal Compression Fracture article > >

Keep your bones strong with Cosman's four suggestions.

Exercise for Osteoporosis

"Aerobic activity as well as strength training -- using weight machines, free weights, or elastic bands or just [doing] calisthenics -- can increase bone strength and reduce the risk of falling by improving balance and coordination," she says. (If you've had a major fracture, check with your doctor before doing any exercise.)

"I have one patient with osteoporosis who never exercised in her life, embarked on a gym program, and felt dramatically better after a few years," Cosman says. "She was much stronger, had better balance, and reduced her number of falls. She really helped herself."

Calcium for Bone Strength

Get plenty of calcium, a major building block of bone tissue. "Calcium gives bone its hardness and is very important for bone strength." Aim for 1,000 milligrams of dietary calcium per day if you're younger than 50 or a man age 50 to 70. Women age 50 and older and men age 71 and older need a total of 1,200 milligrams daily, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. That translates to three servings of high-calcium foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, or calcium-fortified citrus juice or cereal.

Preventing Falls With Osteoporosis

Go through your home and remove tripping hazards like throw rugs, curtain cords, and electrical wires. Keep hallways and bathrooms well lit, and install safety handles on the bathtub. Ask someone else to retrieve hard-to-reach items, Cosman advises.

One recent study found that practicing tai chi reduced the risk of falls in older adults by almost half.

Bone Density Tests for Osteoporosis

Talk to your doctor about when and how often you should have bone density tests and take bone-building medication.

Reviewed on July 15, 2012

Today on WebMD

Women working out and walking with weights
Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
Chinese cabbage
Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
 
woman stretching
Get the facts on osteoporosis.
Porous bone
Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
 
senior woman
Article
Woman holding plate of brocolli
Article
 
wrist xray
Quiz
Superfood for Bones
Slideshow
 
mature woman
Article
sunlight in hands
Article
 
man and woman in front of xray
Quiz
woman with dumbbells
Article