Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that causes your bones to become weaker and more vulnerable to breaking.

Certain factors that increase your risk of osteoporosis — such as your age and family history — cannot be controlled. But there are several things you can do to help prevent osteoporosis.

For example, people who sit a lot and are not physically active are at increased risk of osteoporosis. Staying active, adopting a simple exercise routine, or increasing your activity level can help you reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

Keep reading to find out more about how you can maintain bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.

Including physical activity can help prevent heart disease. Keeping your brain active can help prevent cognitive decline. Protecting your bones is just as important.

In many ways, osteoporosis is a silent, invisible disease. But it’s the leading cause of bone fractures in postmenopausal women and older men. The most common fracture sites include the hip, wrist, and spinal vertebra.

Fractures are most often caused by falls. But in people with osteoporosis, bones can become so weak that even minor stumbles can lead to fractures.

Osteoporosis can also cause bones to break from coughing, bending, lifting, or other forms of minor pressure. Bones can even break spontaneously, without a known cause.

Fractures in older age can have a greater impact on your mental and physical health than when you were younger. For example, hip fractures can severely limit mobility and make it impossible for you to live independently.

Studies have shown that hip fractures in older adults decrease life expectancy and that people often never regain their pre-fracture levels of mobility and independence.

Other fractures can be equally as debilitating.

Some of the major risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Genetics: Osteoporosis appears to affect some groups more than others. For example, the condition occurs more often in non-Hispanic white women and Asian women, but it occurs less often in African American and Hispanic women. You may also be at higher risk if you have a family history of osteoporosis.
  • Gender: Women experience osteoporosis at higher rates than men. But men can still develop osteoporosis.
  • Age: The hormones estrogen and testosterone play significant roles in bone strength by keeping your bones from breaking down. As you age, your hormone production naturally decreases. This can increase the chances that you’ll develop osteoporosis.
  • Nutrition: Both eating a low nutrient diet and long-term heavy drinking can increase your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Activity level: Low levels of physical activity and exercise can increase your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Medical conditions: Some medical conditions can increase your risk for osteoporosis, including rheumatoid arthritis, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, and hyperparathyroidism.
  • Certain medications: Taking glucocorticoid medications like dexamethasone and prednisone can reduce bone density. This can occur 3 to 6 months after you start taking the medications regularly. Other medications that may affect your bone health include anti-epileptic medications, some cancer treatments, proton pump inhibitors (acid reducers), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs).

Anyone can develop osteoporosis, even when they have no risk factors. But you can also experience all these risk factors and still not develop osteoporosis.

As you age, your bones continue getting stronger until they reach peak bone mass, which usually happens in your 30s. After that, they begin to weaken.

When you’re younger, exercise can help strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis. But as you get older, exercise becomes less effective at preventing bone loss.

Older adults should focus on exercise that helps maintain overall health, strengthen muscles, and improve balance.

Both improved strength and balance help prevent falls that can cause broken bones.

Exercise recommendations

The World Health Organization recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 years old perform at least one of the following each week:

  • 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity
  • 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity

This should be coupled with resistance training for all major muscle groups at least 2 days a week.

These recommendations are the same for adults ages 65 and older.

Focusing on eating a nutritious diet is another way that you can enhance your bone health and reduce your osteoporosis risk.

First, focus on the amount of calcium and vitamin D you take in each day. These two nutrients are the most closely associated with bone health.


Calcium is important for building strong bones. If you don’t take in enough in your diet, your body may break down bone to release more calcium, which can increase your osteoporosis risk.

Your calcium needs vary slightly throughout your life. If you’re between ages 19 and 50 years old, you need about 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day. If you’re female between ages 51 and 70 years old, you need about 1,200 mg of calcium a day.

Foods that contain calcium include:

  • low fat dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • salmon with bones
  • sardines
  • dark, leafy green vegetables like collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, and bok choy
  • fortified foods, such as bread, cereals, orange juice, and soy milk (with at least 100 mg of calcium per serving)

To put the amount of calcium you need per day into perspective, think of a glass of 1 percent milk with 299 mg of calcium. If you drink a glass of milk with a bowl of cereal, you have already consumed one-third of your daily calcium needs at breakfast.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for helping your body absorb calcium. You’ll typically need to take in about 600 mg if you are between ages 1 and 70 years old. If you’re over age 70, you should take in 800 mg a day.

Some foods that contain vitamin D include:

  • canned tuna
  • egg yolks
  • herring
  • liver
  • mushrooms
  • salmon
  • sardines

Foods fortified with vitamin D include breads, cereals, and varieties of milk.

Other nutrition advice

Other dietary tips to help prevent osteoporosis include the following:

  • Drinking alcohol in moderation only. Moderate drinking is considered no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  • Ensuring you take in enough calories on a daily basis. Being underweight is a risk factor for osteoporosis.
  • Eating a diet rich in whole, colorful foods. This should include fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

As a general rule, eating habits that provide health-promoting benefits are helpful for your bones as well. If you have trouble meeting your daily calcium or vitamin D needs, talk with a doctor about supplementation.

Talk with a doctor about your risks and the age at which you should undergo screening.

If you have a history of bone fractures and are age 50 or older, a doctor will likely recommend screening you for osteoporosis.

Women ages 65 and older should generally undergo screening for osteoporosis. Men over age 70 should also undergo screening.

Screening for osteoporosis is painless. Doctors screen for bone density using a type of X-ray imaging known as a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. This is usually a scan of the hip to determine if you have experienced significant bone loss compared with people your age and those with healthy bone structure.

Are kids at risk for osteoporosis?

Children can experience juvenile osteoporosis because the condition is usually due to another underlying condition, such as:

  • juvenile arthritis
  • osteogenesis imperfecta
  • diabetes mellitus

If your child experiences multiple bone fractures, talk with their pediatrician about whether you should be concerned about their risk for osteoporosis.

Preventive methods at all ages can help you reduce your risk for osteoporosis.

If you do experience this condition, preventive methods can become part of your treatment strategy along with medications to reduce bone loss.

Talk with a doctor about when you may need an osteoporosis screening and ways you can reduce your individual risk.