Bones provide structure for your body. They protect organs and anchor muscles.
Your body is continually removing old bone and forming new bone. To help this process and to keep your bones healthy, you need to get enough calcium, vitamin D and exercise.
As a child and teen, your body makes new bone faster than it removes old bone. Your bones are heaviest and densest then.
But, as an adult, you can lose bone faster than you make it. And that can lead to osteoporosis, a disease where your bones weaken and deteriorate. People with osteoporosis have a higher risk of broken bones, typically in the wrist, hip and spine.
Anyone can get osteoporosis, but your risk is higher if you are:
- Small, thin-boned
- Calcium deficient
- Physically inactive
Symptoms of Poor Bone Health
Bone loss, or osteoporosis, has no symptoms. You may not know you have poor bone health until your bones become so weak that they break.
The best way to determine bone health is with a bone mineral density (BMD) test. A BMD test is similar to having an X-ray. It shows if you have bone loss and an increased risk for broken bones.
Treatment and Nutrition for Bone Health
To have strong, healthy bones and reduce the risk and effects of osteoporosis:
- Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as:
- Dairy products
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Sardines and salmon
- Calcium-enriched orange juice, cereals and breads
Your body stores calcium in your bones to keep them strong.
- Get enough vitamin D. Adults should have 600 IU (International Units) each day; adults over 70 should have 800 IU. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
- Sources of vitamin D include:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Egg yolks
- Saltwater fish
- Enriched milk and cereal
Or, take vitamin D supplements - which is a good idea for almost everyone.
If your doctor has never done so, ask him or her to check your vitamin D level. If it is too low, you may need a short course of prescription-strength vitamin D.
- Do weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, weight training, dancing, tennis and other sports. Bones are like muscles; they get stronger with exercise. Adults should do at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
- Avoid smoking.
- Limit alcohol.
If you already have osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe medicine to slow or stop bone loss and increase bone density.
- "Bone Diseases," [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bonediseases.html] MedlinePlus.
- "Calcium," [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/calcium.html] MedlinePlus.
- "Osteoporosis Overview," [http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/overview.asp] NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center.
- "Calcium and Bone Health," [http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/calcium.html] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.