Osteoporosis affects nine million Americans, causing weak and more fragile bones that are susceptible to breaking.

Keep Bones Strong

Woman Drinking Milk

May is National Osteoporosis Month, sponsored by the National Osteoporosis Foundation. This bone disease affects nine million Americans, causing weak and more fragile bones that are susceptible to breaking. Another 43 million adults have low bone density, putting them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

It is important to prevent osteoporosis, or at least slow down its progression if you have been diagnosed with it. This is a serious disease: 24 percent of adults 50 years and older who have a hip fracture will die in the year following the fracture. And one-quarter of the 300,000 patients who fracture their hip each year will end up in nursing homes.

Here are lifestyle tips to prevent osteoporosis:

  1. Eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of nutrients to maintain bone strength:
    • Calcium: 1,000-1,200 mg per day (safe upper limit is 2,000-2,500 mg per day)
    • Food sources of calcium include milk, yogurt and cheeses; calcium-fortified soy and almond milk and fruit juices, all greens such as collard greens, turnip greens and kale
    • Vitamin D: 400-800 IUs per day for under 50 years of age; 800-1,000 IUs per day for 50 years and older (safe upper limit is 4,000 IUs per day)
    • Food sources include vitamin-D fortified dairy, soy and almond milks; fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna.
    • Vitamin D is also made in the skin with exposure to sunlight.
  2. Include weight-bearing exercise like walking or gently jogging.
  3. Muscle-strengthening exercises two to three times a week will keep bones extra strong.

Like high blood pressure, osteoporosis is a silent disease – you cannot feel your bones becoming weaker. So, when your doctor recommends having a bone scan assessment, do it to know where you stand with bone health. And be proactive – don’t wait until your older years to try to care for your bones. They need a lifetime of care to stay strong and dense.

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.