by Diana Kelly

Bone Up: Tips to Help Maintain Bone Health

Through no fault of your own, aging and hormones wreak havoc on your bones. Adults reach peak bone mass in their 30s. In the 10 years after menopause, women can lose up to 40 percent of their inner bone and 10 percent of their outer bone. [1]. But it's not just women who need to be vigilant -- up to a quarter of men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. [2] However, osteoporosis is not inevitable; there are ways to help reduce the amount of bone you lose as you age.

Maintaining good bone health is important for overall health and quality of life. Here are some tips to help keep your bones healthy:

    Hit Your Daily Calcium Target

    Calcium is important for strong bones, so it's important to make sure you are getting enough in your diet. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, almonds, and fortified foods.

    Remember when Mom used to say, "Drink your milk to grow up big and tall?" She was right.

    Calcium, which is prevalent in dairy products, is the mineral that nourishes bone tissue. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), women over age 50 [3] should strive for 1,200mg/day, while men over age 70 should aim to get 1,200mg/day. [3] The NOF also recommends getting your calcium through food sources rather than pills, if possible. [3] This is easy to do since there are many healthful sources you can incorporate into your meals throughout the day: milk on your morning cereal, a salad full of leafy greens for lunch, a snack of a few squares of reduced-fat cheese, and broccoli at dinner. [3] While leafy greens are a good source of calcium, the calcium in these foods is not absorbed as well as the calcium found in dairy products, so be sure that veggies are not your only source of this important nutrient. [4]

    Get Enough Vitamin D

    Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so it's important to make sure you are getting enough of it as well.

    Sunlight is a good natural source of vitamin D, but it can also be found in fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods.

    When it comes to bone health, vitamin D is vital, enabling the body to utilize all that calcium you're eating. [3] The NOF recommends men and women under age 50 get 400 to 800 International Units (IU) daily; 800 to 1,000 IU if older. [3] However, it's challenging to hit that target with food alone. (Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, mackerel, and tuna are the best natural sources.) That's why most experts recommend using vitamin D supplements to get your daily dose [3] -- just check with your doctor about any potential side effects and for the best option to meet your lifestyle and needs. [edit, 3]

    Exercise Regularly This Way

    Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and weightlifting, can help keep your bones strong and healthy.

    Swimming and bicycling are great for weight control and heart health, but because the body is supported while doing them (by the water or bike) your bones don't receive much direct benefit. The solution is to add strength training to your workout regime. Bone responds to weight lifting like muscle does. Also, consider swapping one or two of your weekly swims or rides with a weight-bearing activity like walking, hiking, stair climbing, or tennis. [5]

    Talk to your doctor

    Your doctor has reliable ways to monitor all facets of your bone health and gauge your ongoing risk of osteoporosis. At your next checkup, share your family's medical history (a large component of the disease is genetic). And ask if you're a good candidate for a bone density test or one of the blood or urine tests that measure vitamin D and calcium levels. [6]

    If you have any concerns about your bone health, talk to your doctor. They may recommend a bone density test or other measures to help keep your bones healthy.

    Don't smoke

    Smoking can weaken your bones and increase your risk of fractures.

    Limit alcohol and caffeine

    Consuming too much alcohol or caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption and increase the risk of bone loss.


1.American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Healthy Bones at Every Age

2. National Osteoporosis Foundation: Just for Men

3. National Osteoporosis Foundation: Calcium and Vitamin D: What You Need to Know

4. NIH ODS: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet Calcium

5.National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Exercise for Your Bone Health

6. National Osteoporosis Foundation: Making a Diagnosis


Diana Kelly is a New York-based freelance writer and editor with over 10 years' experience working for various media outlets including, Prevention, Shape, Redbook, Men's Fitness and more

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"Bone Up: Tips to Help Maintain Bone Health"