The word osteoporosis can be translated to ‘porous bones’1; this means bone density has decreased to the point where the bone is weak and can be easily fractured. It is reported that 30-50% of women and 20-25% of men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Building strong bones is most crucial in the younger years of life because peak bone mass is reached in the later teens and early twenties. The risk for osteoporosis greatly increases as people age, especially for post-menopausal white and Asian women. There are other risk factors that cannot be controlled like sex, family history, and medical conditions, but some lifestyle habits can help slow bone loss. 2
Exercise, especially strength training and weight bearing exercises, helps strengthen muscles and bones. Examples include, weight lifting, walking, jogging, hiking, and skiing. Yoga and tai chi can improve balance which can prevent falls that result in a fracture.2
Nutrition also plays a role in minimizing the advancement of osteoporosis. Calcium is one of the most important building blocks of bones. For those over age 70, the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1000-1200mg3. Calcium is not only abundant in milk and other dairy products, but also easily absorbed. Dark green vegetables and products fortified with calcium (i.e. soy milk, orange juice) can be beneficial to include, however the calcium is not as readily available4. Vitamin D and magnesium compliment calcium, by aiding in absorption and directing calcium to the bone5.
Drinking soft drinks, alcohol, and caffeine in moderation is best because these substances in excess have been correlated with further bone loss. High amounts of salt and phosphate additives are found in processed foods, and both impact calcium absorption negatively. Salt increases the amount of calcium excreted in urine, and phosphorus can block calcium absorption in the small intestine5.
Getting adequate intake of protein can be challenging for older adults, but it is important in order to prevent accelerated bone and muscle loss. The healthiest sources of protein are unprocessed lean meats, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, legumes, and nuts. Additionally, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been correlated with higher bone density, likely due to providing a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals6.
Overall, getting regular exercise and having a diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean animal and plant based proteins, and dairy products will help keep the worst of osteoporosis at bay. A great resource for foods that are good for bones can be found here.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: https://www.nof.org/patients/what-is-osteoporosis/. Accessed 11/1/2017
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968 Accessed 11/1/2017
- Nutrition Care Manual: https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/topic.cfm?ncm_category_id=31&lv1=255616&lv2=255641&lv3=272432&ncm_toc_id=272432&ncm_heading=Older%20Adult%20Nutrition Accessed 11/1/2017
- Osteoporosis Canada: https://osteoporosis.ca/bone-health-osteoporosis/nutrition/ Accessed 11/1/2017
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/osteoporosis/art-20304601?pg=2 Accessed 11/1/2017
- Tucker KL. Osteoporosis prevention and nutrition. Current Osteoporosis Reports. 2009; 7:111.