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Reviewed January 2011
When you think about your health, you probably do not think about your bones. But keeping your bones healthy and reducing your risk of fractures by preventing osteoporosis is very important throughout life and especially as you get older. Here is some important information to help you.
Factors that increase your chances of having osteoporosis and fractures include:
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones fragile and more likely to break. There are no symptoms to warn you. The first sign is usually a fracture that occurs after your bones have already become fragile. Fractures occur most often in the hip, spine, and wrist. Spinal fractures cause stooped posture, loss of height, and chronic back pain. Hip fractures, the most serious consequence of osteoporosis, can result in permanent disability and even death.
You can take steps to protect your bones in your older years. These include a good diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D, a regular exercise program, a healthy lifestyle, and, sometimes, medication.
You need calcium to help maintain healthy, strong bones throughout your life. Adults up to age 50 need 1,000 mg (milligrams) of calcium every day. Women over age 50 and men over age 70 should increase their intake to 1,200 mg daily.
Many Asian diets are low in calcium. Examples of foods that contain calcium in different amounts include:
Many Asian Americans have trouble digesting milk products. This is called lactose intolerance. If you are lactose intolerant, here are some things you can do:
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You need 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D every day. Men and women over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily. People can get enough vitamin D from such sources as:
Physical activity is also important to prevent osteoporosis and reduce falls that can result in fractures. Weight-bearing activities can help you maintain strong bones. Examples include:
Other kinds of exercise will help you increase your flexibility and improve your balance to prevent falls. Examples include:
Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is safe for you. If you have low bone density or osteoporosis, you should protect your spine by avoiding exercises and activities that flex, bend, or twist your spine.
Smoking and drinking too much alcohol are bad for bones. To protect your bones, do not smoke, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
If you are at high risk for osteoporosis, you may want to ask your doctor if a bone density test is right for you. This test will help your doctor decide if you need medication to reduce your risk of fractures.
Bone density tests are quick and painless. You usually do not need to get undressed. The most widely recognized test is called a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry or DXA test, which measures bone density at the hip and spine. If you are age 65 or older, Medicare may pay for your test. Ask your doctor for more information.
If bone density testing indicates that you have low bone density or osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe treatment that includes calcium and vitamin D, exercise, and medication. Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include: bisphosphonates; estrogen agonists/antagonists (also called selective estrogen receptor modulators or SERMS); parathyroid hormone; estrogen therapy; hormone therapy; and a recently approved RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitor.
These medications provide a variety of choices. Your doctor can help you find the one that is best for you.
This fact sheet contains information about medications used to treat the health condition discussed here. When this fact sheet was printed, we included the most up-to-date (accurate) information available. Occasionally, new information on medication is released.
For updates and for any questions about any medications you are taking, please contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at:
Toll Free: 888–INFO–FDA (888–463–6332)
For updates and questions about statistics, please contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics toll free at 800–232–4636 or visit its Web site at www.cdc.gov/nchs.