Osteoporosis Prevention

Prevention of osteoporosis includes getting an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, as well as attention to exercise. Smoking cessation and reducing alcohol consumption are also important factors for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.

Calcium

Calcium is essential for bone health. The body's need for calcium increases during four periods in a woman's life:

The National Academy of Sciences has set daily-recommended allowances for calcium intake:

Age Amount of Calcium
9–18 1300 mg
19–50 1000 mg
51 and older 1200–1500 mg

Foods containing calcium include dairy products, salmon, kale, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, and calcium-fortified foods such as bread, cereals, and orange juice. Some women require a calcium supplement. The dosage should not exceed 2000 mg because it may increase the risk for kidney stones.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D aids in the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Twenty minutes of sun each day satisfies the daily-recommended intake; however, additional vitamin D may be necessary. If taken in a supplement, 400 IU to 800 IU per day is recommended. The dosage should not exceed 2000 IU daily because of possible liver damage. Foods containing vitamin D include eggs, fatty fish, cereal, and milk fortified with vitamin D.

Exercise

An active lifestyle that includes regular exercise helps to maintain and even increase bone density. Recommended forms of exercise include the following:

  • Aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Stair climbing
  • Tennis
  • Walking
  • Weight training

Stop Smoking

Smoking tobacco interferes with the absorption of calcium and is associated with lower estrogen levels, early onset of menopause, and an increased need for hormone replacement therapy after menopause. Smoking cessation reduces the risk for osteoporosis.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption inhibits bone remodeling. In addition, intoxication increases the risk for falls. Women who drink alcohol should consume fewer than 4 drinks per week.

Medication

Osteoporosis prevention may include oral medications such as alendronate (Fosamax®, Fosamax Plus D™, Binosto™) and risedronate (Actonel®, Actonel® with Calcium), intravenous injection medications like zoledronic acid (Reclast®, Zometa®), and others. Zoledronic acid was approved by the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2009 to treat osteoporosis and prevent the condition in postmenopausal women with low bone density. It may help prevent osteoporosis for up to 2 years with a single dose.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Apr 2001

Last Modified: 14 Nov 2012