1. Exercise regularly. Bones love exercise. Weight-bearing exercise is good for stimulating cells, and resistance exercise provides valuable challenges for bones. To reap the benefits, about 30 minutes of daily exercise is required.
2. Consume calcium. Everyone knows that milk is good for bones, and that’s because it’s packed with calcium. Dairy products aren’t the only place to find this powerhouse mineral, however. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are another great source, and they also contain vitamin K, another important nutrient for bones.
3. Get vitamin D. In order for calcium to do its job, it must be paired with vitamin D; the two are partners in bone health. Because of their teamwork, many dairy products and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. One of the best natural sources of this vitamin is a trip to the great outdoors, as sunlight triggers its production. Until age 70, Americans are advised to get 600 IUs of vitamin D each day.
4. Focus on whole foods. In addition to calcium and vitamins D and K, there are a whole host of other nutrients that contribute to bone health. Vitamin B12, potassium, protein, magnesium are just a few of those. A well-rounded diet comprised of whole foods is the best way to make the most of every calorie and load up on all of these essential nutrients.
5. Consider supplements. Although a varied diet based on whole foods provides a wealth of vitamins and minerals, some people will also benefit from a supplement, such as a multivitamin. While not everyone needs to supplement, and some will be fine with an over-the-counter product, others should take a prescription-strength multivitamin, so supplementing should be done under the care of a medical professional.
6. Stay away from cigarettes. Smoking isn’t just bad for the lungs. It also weakens bones by reducing bone mass.
7. Go for moderation. Both excess caffeine and excess alcohol can weaken bones, especially in people who don’t get enough calcium. A good rule of thumb is to keep coffee consumption to two cups a day or less and to keep alcoholic drinks to two or less a day for men and one or less a day for women.
8. Maintain a healthy weight. It’s common knowledge that being overweight can negatively affect your health, but when it comes to bone health, being underweight is also a risk factor. People with a BMI of less than 21 are at a higher risk for osteoporosis. Also, women who lose a significant amount of weight in the years surrounding menopause also increase their risk of developing bone troubles.
9. Consider prescriptions. Medicines can both help and hurt bone health. Some prescriptions, especially corticosteroids and proton pump inhibitors, can have negative side effects for bones. Patients should consult with their doctors on whether the benefits of the medications outweigh their risks. On the other hand, some prescription drugs have the potential to slow bone loss. People with one or more osteoporosis risk factors should talk to their doctors about whether a bone mass-increasing drug is right for them.
10. Pay attention to family history. There is a genetic component to bone health. People whose close family members have had osteoporosis are more likely to develop the disease themselves. Although knowing family history isn’t enough to ward off bone density loss, it can help guide patients toward smart decisions and informed treatment options.