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Reducing Your Risk of Osteoporosis

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Reducing Your Risk of Osteoporosis

Bones grow and get stronger during childhood. This lasts through the 20s. After age 30, bone loss happens faster than bone building. The bone mass a person reaches before age 30 may affect their bone health for the rest of their life.

Many things can change the normal pattern of bone growth and loss. Some things cannot be changed such as a person's genes. But, many others can—such as the foods a person eats. The earlier a person builds bone health, the better. Some steps that will help are to:

Eat a Healthful Diet

Good nutrition is vital for normal growth and development. Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D may be a reason osteoporosis starts and gets worse.


Calcium is the key mineral for reaching full bone mass. It also helps to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Adults should get between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium per day. This changes based on age.

There are ways to get more calcium. Eat foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, soy products, and collard greens. Many foods such as orange juice, breakfast bars, and cereals have calcium added.

High amounts of proteins, caffeine, and salt in the diet may lower calcium levels in some people. This may not be as much of a problem in those who get enough calcium.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed for bone health. Vitamin D helps the body take in calcium. The skin makes vitamin D when a person spends time in the sun. The amount of sunlight a person needs varies. It depends on where they live, the time of day, and their skin color.

Some people have a harder time getting vitamin D. The risk is higher for older adults and people who do not spend a lot of time in the sun. Most babies and young children in the US have enough vitamin D because it is added to milk. Teens tend to eat less dairy. This can lower their intake of vitamin D and calcium.

Experts advise a daily intake of between 600 and 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D.

Exercise Regularly

Full bone mass is helped by regular physical activity. This is mainly true during the child or teen years. As a person gets older, it will help slow the drop in bone density.

Weight bearing and resistance exercises help the most. Walking, running, tennis, or hiking are all good for bones. Strength training can help raise bone density. This will keep muscles strong. It will also lower the risk of having a fall.

Do Not Smoke

Smokers have a higher risk of osteoporosis. People who smoke tend to have lower bone density.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Use

Alcohol interferes with how vitamin D is used in the body. This can lower how much calcium is taken in. It also rids the body of magnesium at a higher rate. Also, heavy drinkers tend to not get enough nutrition. This would include calcium and vitamin D.

Heavy drinking also affects hormone levels. For women, it can cause menstrual problems. For men, it lowers how much testosterone is made. This can result in reduced bone formation.

Alcohol affects balance and how well a person walks. This can lead to stumbling, tripping, or running into objects. It can also raise the risk of broken bones.

The link between caffeine use and bone health is not as clear. It may be best to limit caffeine to 2 cups of coffee or less a day.

Ask The Doctor About Medicines That May Help

For those at high risk, the doctor may advise:

  • Bisphosphonates
  • Estrogens
  • Raloxifene

These medicines carry some risk. Talk to the doctor about them.

Have a Bone Mineral Density Test

A bone mineral density test (BMD) can detect bone density. It can also check the risk of breaking a bone. Keep in mind, symptoms are not usually present. The doctor can advise a BMD test, if needed.

Talk to The Doctor About Your Medicines

Some medicines may increase the risk of osteoporosis. They include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Medicines to suppress the immune system
  • Chemotherapy
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone
  • Antidepressants
  • Antiseizure medications
  • Medications containing aluminum, such as some antacids
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Long-term heparin therapy
  • Glitazones—used to treat diabetes


  • Bisphosphonates for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/bisphosphonates-for-treatment-and-prevention-of-osteoporosis.
  • Calcium and vitamin D for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/calcium-and-vitamin-d-for-treatment-and-prevention-of-osteoporosis.
  • Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) and osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/hormonal-replacement-therapy-hrt-and-osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteoporosis-in-postmenopausal-women.
  • Osteoporosis overview. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website. Available at: https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview.
  • Pouresmaeili F, Kamalidehghan B, et al. A comprehensive overview on osteoporosis and its risk factors. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2018;14:2029-2049.
  • What women need to know. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know.


  • April Scott, NP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.