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5 Lifestyle Steps for Better Bone Health

Maximize bone health and reduce the effects of osteoporosis with these simple steps.
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Bone Health Step 1: Calcium and Vitamin D continued...

Certain medications can interfere with absorption of calcium carbonate -- including Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and others used to treat acid reflux (GERD) or peptic ulcers. If you take those medications, you should probably take calcium citrate.

  • Calcium citrate is generally well tolerated, and can be taken without food. You might need to take more than one pill to get the recommended dosage, so take them at separate times -- to help your body absorb the calcium. If you take more than about 500 milligrams of calcium at one time your body will simply pass it as waste.

Check the supplement's label before buying. Look for either "pharmaceutical grade" or "USP (United States Pharmacopeia) standards. This will ensure high-quality pills that will dissolve in your system. "Even generic brands are fine if they have that information," Diemer advises. 

Don't forget vitamin D. Most calcium pills -- and most multivitamins -- contain vitamin D. However, you can get vitamin D in food (fortified dairy products, egg yolks, saltwater fish like tuna, and liver). Research suggests that vitamin D3 supplements may be a little bit better absorbed and retained than Vitamin D2.

If you're taking osteoporosis medications, take calcium, too. "A lot of patients think if they start treatment they don't need calcium," she adds. "That's not true, and physicians often don't emphasize the point."

Take prescription calcium if necessary. In some cases, doctors prescribe higher-strength calcium and vitamin D tablets.

Bone Health Step 2: Weight-Bearing Exercise

Calcium supplements and osteoporosis medications can stop bone loss -- which allows the bone to rebuild itself, Diemer explains. "But the body needs 'encouragement' to rebuild bone," she adds. "The skeleton needs to be under stress so it will get stronger."  That's why exercise is important for better bone health.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before you begin any exercise regimen. Here are some types of exercises your doctor may suggest.

Make walking a daily ritual. Walking, jogging, and light aerobics make your bones and muscles work against gravity -- which puts stress on the skeleton, which strengthens bones. Bicycling is also good for bones; it offers some resistance, which improves muscle mass and strengthens bones.

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Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

How do you exercise for strong bones?