Preventing Osteoporosis

Three women are doing yoga.

How strong are your bones? As you get older, it’s important to know your risk for osteoporosis, a disease that causes the thinning of your bones, which weakens them over time and makes them more likely to break.

Osteoporosis affects about 10 million Americans, and of those, 80 percent are women, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Many people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they develop advanced symptoms, including low back pain, a hunched back or a broken wrist or hip.

Here are some ways to help prevent osteoporosis:

  • Do regular weight-bearing exercise, including dancing, walking, jogging, hiking or stair-climbing. However, you should check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
  • Take calcium and vitamin D. Check with your doctor for the recommended amounts for people older than age 50.
  • Don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.

Your doctor can perform a bone densitometry (bone density test) – a painless, simple test to measure bone mineral density – if she or he suspects you have osteoporosis. If that diagnosis is confirmed, it can be treated with medications.

Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, but both women and men who are older than 50 are at greater risk for developing the disease. Your ethnic background is another factor that might increase your chances. White or Asian people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than African-American or Hispanic people.

  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Previous fracture, especially after age 50
  • Small or thin frame
  • Being postmenopausal
  • Low amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Eating disorders anorexia nervosa or bulimia
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Taking certain medications, including corticosteroids and some anticonvulsants