To prevent osteoporosis later in life, it is important to build up bone mass at a young age. Women usually reach their peak bone mass by age 20, while men may reach it in their early 20s. To build strong, healthy bones, children and teenagers should get plenty of calcium and exercise. Having high bone mass at a young age makes osteoporosis less likely in old age. People between 18 and 50 years old should aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day, while women over 50 and men over 70 should get 1,200 milligrams per day. The best sources of calcium are dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, soy products, and calcium-fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice. Getting enough vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb calcium. The best way to get vitamin D is from sunlight, but people who do not have that option can take supplements. It is important to consult a doctor when taking supplements for calcium or vitamin D to ensure the right amount. In addition to diet, weight-bearing activities can help strengthen bones by making them work against gravity. Good weight-bearing exercises include walking, running, stair climbing, and weight lifting.


The goal of osteoporosis treatment is to prevent fractures and strengthen the bones. Doctors regularly prescribe medications called bisphosphonates to slow bone loss and in some cases increase bone density. Bisphosphonates include alendronate (Fosamax, Binosto), risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia), ibandronate (Boniva), and zoledronic acid, which is available as an intravenous injection. Long-term use of bisphosphonates may cause gastrointestinal problems and, in rare cases, jawbone and thighbone problems. Hormone therapy to increase estrogen may also prevent further bone deterioration caused by osteoporosis, but it can carry serious risks. The drug raloxifene (Evista) can provide some of the same benefits of estrogen without the risks. If a patient cannot tolerate the usual osteoporosis medications, teriparatide (Forteo) and denosumab (Prolia) may help to regenerate bones. People with osteoporosis should avoid alcohol and smoking, as they can reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

More Information

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/calcium.html

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoporosis/DS00128

Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoporosis.html

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