How can I prevent osteoporosis?

To help prevent osteoporosis (a bone-thinning condition that can result in bone fracture), you should try to avoid things that contribute to bone loss: cigarette smoke, of course, but also excess amounts of alcohol, caffeine, animal protein, and vitamin A. Try to limit daily consumption to an average of one drink of wine, beer, or spirits; three cups of coffee or the equivalent; 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your weight (about 45 grams for a 125-pound woman); and 700 micrograms (2,300 international units [IU]) of vitamin A.

There are three main ways to prevent osteoporosis:

  1. Make sure you get the daily recommended amount of calcium.
  2. Get the right amount of vitamin D, which helps your body better absorb calcium.
  3. Boost your bones with regular exercise. The best workout to help prevent osteoporosis is strength training combined with weight-bearing exercise. Strength training builds muscle and bone in the arms and helps make the upper part of your spine stronger. Weight-bearing exercises, like walking, strengthen your lower spine, hips and legs.
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The rapid decline of estrogen at menopause escalates the natural bone thinning that occurs as we grow older and increases our risk of developing osteoporosis. In addition to engaging in regular, weight-bearing exercise, there are several dietary guidelines we can follow to help minimize bone loss. These include:

  • Consume enough calcium. Foods high in calcium include milk, cheese, and other dairy products; dark leafy greens; beans; and foods such as orange juice that are fortified with calcium.
  • Get adequate vitamin D, either through your diet, exposure to sunshine, or supplements.
  • Get enough vitamin K. Foods high in vitamin K include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dark green lettuce, collard greens, and kale. Vitamin K is also made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Get vitamin A in your diet but don't consume too much.
  • Avoid eating substantial amounts of protein every day. When you eat protein, your body releases acids into the bloodstream, which are then neutralized by drawing calcium from your bones. Protein from meats and animal products seems to pull more calcium from the bones than protein from vegetables and legumes.
Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

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Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause


Do these things to keep your bones healthy:

  • Get enough vitamin D and calcium - Eat more broccoli and green leafy vegetables. Eat low-fat cheese and yogurt. Drink low-fat milk. Take a vitamin that has vitamin D and calcium.
  • Exercise every day - Staying active will protect your bones as you age.
  • Don't smoke - Smoking thins your bones faster.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol - More than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks a day is bad for your bones.
  • Take your osteoporosis medicine if your doctor prescribed it - It can help build bones or slow down bone loss.
Dr. David M. Slovik, MD

While it's true that all people lose bone as they age, osteoporosis is not inevitable. There's a lot you can do to shield your bones from this disease.

Ideally, prevention begins in childhood and continues throughout your life. The best insurance against osteoporosis is to reach the highest bone density possible by your 30s and to minimize bone loss after that. But even if you weren't aware of the importance of building bone during your teen years and you're already in midlife or beyond, there are still many things you can do to hold on to the bone you have and perhaps even to replace lost bone.

The foundation for prevention and treatment is simple: get enough calcium and vitamin D, engage in weight-bearing exercise regularly, and take appropriate medications when necessary. You can also protect your bones by avoiding bone-depleting habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol use.

Dr. Kelly Traver

Prevention starts early in life. You reach your peak bone mass in your twenties, so during these years it is important to do a lot of weight-bearing exercise and get enough calcium and vitamin D. Building up strong bones in your teens and twenties pays off big-time later in life.

You can reduce your risk of osteoporosis by getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D and regular exercise. These steps are especially helpful in childhood and adolescence. Adults can reduce their risk by quitting smoking and only drinking alcohol in moderation. Maintaining good control of chronic illnesses is also important to prevent secondary osteoporosis, or thinning bones caused by certain medical conditions or treatments. Occasionally, medications are used to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
For all women, it's important to take steps to promote strong bones, especially when you're young, in order to prevent osteoporosis. Protecting the bones from further weakening is very important. That can be done not only through having a healthy diet and taking in the appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin D on a daily basis, but also through exercise.
Since signs of osteoporosis don't show up until later in life, keeping your bones healthy is a lifelong process. Beginning in childhood, eating and lifestyle habits can protect you from this debilitating disease. Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D plus engaging in regular physical activity need to be lifelong habits.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.