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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 2: Weight-Bearing Exercise continued...

Swimming, however, is not a good bone-booster, says Diemer. "Swimming is great for joints if you have arthritis, but it's not doing anything for osteoporosis. With swimming, the skeleton is comfortable so it is not working to hold itself up."

She advises 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise five days a week if you can. "I'm satisfied if they get 30 minutes, three times a week."

Core strengthening is critical, too. Abdominal exercises, lower back exercises, yoga, Pilates, and tai chi help strengthen the spine. "All that stuff is great, because the most common fractures are in the spine," Diemer tells WebMD. "Strengthening muscles to the spine gives more support to the spine. The other thing about yoga, Pilates, and tai chi -- they improve balance, which prevents falls."

Tell your instructor that you have osteoporosis. If you're taking yoga or Pilates, make sure you have a certified instructor. You need close supervision to make sure you don't harm yourself.

Bone Health Step 3: Don't Smoke & Moderate Alcohol

"Nicotine is toxic to bone," Diemer tells WebMD. "The first thing I tell patients who smoke is, if you don't stop smoking there's very little we can do for your bones. You counteract all medications."

Alcohol in moderation is fine, but just one or two drinks a week, she advises. "Alcohol in excess causes about 2% bone loss in a year's time. Nicotine also causes 2% bone loss. If you're having alcohol and nicotine both in excess, the combined bone loss is actually doubled -- 8% bone loss."

Bone Health Step 4: Talk to Your Doctor

Many factors affect bone strength. Use of certain medications to treat chronic diseases, for example, is an often-overlooked risk factor for developing osteoporosis. Also, certain medications may cause dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of balance -- which could put you at risk for a fall.

Your doctor can explain your own risk -- as well as options for preventing and treating bone loss.

These are questions you might ask your doctor:

  • How can I best improve my bone health?
  • What is the best calcium to take?
  • What medication can help me?
  • Has this medication been proven to lower risk of fractures of spine and hip?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Do I need special instructions for taking my bone medication?
  • Will the medications affect other drugs that I'm taking for other conditions?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • How soon will I see a change?
  • How long will I take this medication?
  • Am I taking any medications that put me at risk for a fall?
  • What exercise is safest for me?
  • Are there exercises I should not do?
  • How can I know if I've fractured a bone in my spine?
  • How soon should I schedule my next appointment?
  • What should I do to prevent falls?
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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?