Once bone mass is lost, it is difficult or impossible to replace. For this reason, preventing osteoporosis is vital. It is important to doeverything you can to build peak bone mass by age 25 and then to ensurethat the inevitable loss of bone occurs as slowly as possible.

Prevention entails a variety of measures, including the following:

Monitoring Calcium and Vitamin D Intake
Calciumrequirements depend primarily on age. The Institute of Medicine offersthe following guidelines for daily calcium intake:

  • Children (4-8 years old): 800 milligrams (mg)
  • Children (9-18 years old): 1,300 mg
  • Men and women (19-50 years old) (including pregnant and nursing women): 1,000 mg
  • Pregnant and nursing women (under 18 years old): 1,300 mg
  • Men and women (over 50 years old): 1,200 mg

Dairy products, especially those low in fat such as skim milk andlow-fat yogurt, are an excellent source of calcium. An eight-ounce glass of skim milk provides 300 mg of calcium and only 90 calories.

Women who are lactose intolerant and vegans, as well as anyone whowants a varied, calcium-rich diet, can turn to dark-green leafyvegetables such as kale, broccoli, and mustard greens; soy milk andother soy products such as tofu; salmon (with edible bones); andcalcium-fortified fruit juices and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin D Is Essential for Calcium Absorption and for Muscle Strength
There is, moreover, increasing evidence that a vitamin D deficiency mayincrease fracture risk. The skin manufactures vitamin D when exposed tothe sun; however, widespread use of sunscreens has reduced the role ofnatural light in preventing vitamin D deficiency. In addition, olderpeople who are rarely out of doors need a supplemental source of thisessential vitamin.

Overall Nutrition
A high protein intake has beenshown to be associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in men andwomen between age50 and 69, although not in older individuals. Contraryto earlier reports, there is no conclusive evidence that the carbonation in beverages has an adverse effect on bone health. It is possible,however, that the caffeine in some carbonated beverages increasescalcium excretion. Drinking large quantities of carbonated beveragesrather than milk also deprives the body of a major calcium source.Finally, recent research has indicated that vitamin B12 may be animportant link in preventing osteoporosis. Good sources of this vitamininclude low-fat dairy products, fish and lean meat, and eggs. Theability to absorb B12 from food decreases with age, so a vitaminsupplement may be advisable for older women.

Women of all ages should engage inregular weight-bearing exercise. Walking is one of the best methods ways to maintain bone strength. Other weight-bearing exercises includejogging, hiking, tennis, bicycling, dancing, aquatic exercises (but notswimming), and weight training. Choose an exercise that combinesmovement with impact on the limbs. Start exercising slowly, especiallyif you have been inactive. Because falls are the most common cause offractures, do some balance activities to reduce your risk. The benefitsof tai chi in particular have been documented. Consult your doctorbefore beginning any exercise program.

Cutting Out Smoking and Reducing Alcohol Intake
Eliminate smoking and excessive alcohol use; these cause bone loss and increase your risk of a fracture.

Return to Section: What Is Osteoporosis?
Return to Bone and Muscle Health Chapter Table of Contents

You can download the entire “Savvy Woman Patient” chapter on Bone and Muscle Health as a PDF.