How to keep your bones strong

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

It's never too early — or too late — to protect your bones from osteoporosis. What follows is an action plan to develop and maintain strong bones for a lifetime. These steps will help reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

Even if you've been told that you have osteoporosis or an increased risk of fracture, these same steps can help keep your bones as healthy as possible.


Follow a bone-healthy diet

If your mother told you to drink milk to keep your bones strong, that was sound advice. Good bone health starts with good nutrition. Your body needs protein, minerals and vitamins to make and regenerate bone. Even though as an adult you might not still be drinking milk, there are plenty of other ways to get the nutrients needed for bone health.

To keep your bones healthy, nutrition is essential! You need a balanced diet that includes enough calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients.



Because calcium is a major component of bone, you need adequate amounts of this mineral throughout life to achieve and maintain peak bone mass. A diet that is low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.

Women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day to maintain strong bones, and for women over age 50, the recommended daily amount is 1,200 mg. Men ages 19 to 70 need 1,000 mg of calcium a day to maintain strong bones, and for men over age 70, the recommended daily amount is 1,200 mg.

Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu. An 8-ounce (240 milliliter) glass of milk provides 300 mg of calcium. Many calcium-fortified foods are also available, including cereals, juices, breakfast bars and pastas. Because the typical diet provides much less calcium than recommended, a calcium supplement can help make up the difference. Calcium supplementation has been shown to improve bone mineral density by 1 to 2 percent. Taking calcium without vitamin D may not prevent fractures.


Vitamin D

Although most people know that calcium is critical for bone health, vitamin D is just as important. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. A lack of vitamin D can weaken bones and increase the risk of fracture.

The dietary sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, such as tuna and sardines, as well as egg yolks and fortified milk or other products. The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight; however, many people, especially those who live in northern latitudes and older people, don't get enough sun exposure to provide adequate vitamin D. Therefore, a dietary supplement may be recommended.