There are multiple ways you can protect yourself against osteoporosis, including:
Exercise. Establish a regular exercise program. Exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. It also helps you stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises, done at least three to four times a week, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises. In addition, strength and balance exercises may help you avoid falls, decreasing your chance of breaking a bone.
Eat foods high in calcium. Getting enough calcium throughout your life helps to build and keep strong bones. The U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium for adults with a low-to-average risk of developing osteoporosis is 1,000 mg (milligrams) each day. For those at high risk of developing osteoporosis, such as postmenopausal women, the RDA increases up to 1,500 mg each day. Excellent sources of calcium are milk and dairy products (low-fat versions are recommended), canned fish with bones like salmon and sardines, dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards and broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice, and breads made with calcium-fortified flour.
Supplements. If you think you need to take a supplement to get enough calcium, check with your doctor first. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are good forms of calcium supplements. Be careful not to get more than 2,000 mg of calcium a day very often. That amount can increase the chance of developing kidney stones.
Vitamin D. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. Being out in the sun for a total of 20 minutes every day helps most people's bodies make enough vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish like salmon, cereal and milk fortified with vitamin D, as well as from supplements. People aged 51 to 70 should have 400-800 IU daily. More than 2,000 IU of vitamin D each day is not recommended -- without first talking to your doctor -- because it may harm your kidneys and even lower bone mass.
Medications. Actonel, Evista, Fosamax, and Boniva are some of the drugs available to help treat and/or prevent osteoporosis.
Estrogen. Estrogen, a hormone produced by the ovaries, helps protect against bone loss. It is used as treatment for the prevention of osteoporosis. Replacing estrogen lost after menopause (when the ovaries stop most of their production of estrogen) slows bone loss and improves the body's absorption and retention of calcium. But, because estrogen therapy carries risks, it is only recommended for women at high risk for osteoporosis and/or severe menopausal symptoms. To learn more, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of estrogen therapy.
Avoid certain medications. Steroids, some breast cancer treatments (such as aromatase inhibitors), drugs used to treat seizures (anticonvulsants), blood thinners (anticoagulants), and thyroid medications increase the rate of bone loss if not used as directed. If you are taking any of these drugs, speak with your doctor about how to reduce your risk of bone loss through diet, lifestyle changes and, possibly, additional medication.
Other preventive steps. Limit alcohol consumption and do not smoke. Smoking causes your body to make less estrogen, which protects the bones. Too much alcohol can damage your bones and increase the risk of falling and breaking a bone.