How Can I Lower My Risk for Osteoporosis?

Six tips to strengthen your bones, prevent breaks

An older woman works out to help strengthen her joints and prevent  osteoporosis.

Six tips to strengthen your bones, prevent breaks

As we age, our bones can become weaker. More than 10 million Americans over 50 have osteoporosis, the most common bone disease. Many others have low bone density, which can also increase the risk of fractures.

There are many risk factors for osteoporosis and low bone density. Osteoporosis is more common in women and those with a family history of the condition. Other risk factors include smoking, heavy alcohol use, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition and a diet low in calcium.

Laika Nur, MD, a sports medicine physician at Scripps Clinic and head of Scripps’ Fragility Fracture Program, says several other conditions can also play a role, such as having:

  • A rheumatologic disease or an autoimmune disease
  • Restrictive eating practices even for a short amount of time
  • Long-term use of pain medications, oral steroids or proton-pump inhibitors
  • Cancer treatments
  • A thyroid problem
  • Early menopause

Osteoporosis symptoms

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease” because it usually has no symptoms until a bone breaks. This often happens in the hip, spine or wrist.


“Osteoporosis is sort of like high blood pressure,” Dr. Nur says, “except we don’t screen for it early. General screening recommendations start at 65. If you have risk factors, it may be reasonable to start checking earlier.”

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for osteoporosis in women ages 65 and older to prevent fractures. Younger women at high risk should consider earlier screening.

 Here are six ways to reduce your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures:

1. Eat foods that are good for your bones

Make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D each day to keep your bone strong.

Most people can get adequate calcium from their food, even if their diet is plant-based or dairy-free. Calcium, a mineral, can be found in milk, cheese, yogurt, spinach, kale, soybeans, canned sardines and salmon with bones.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, fish liver oils, fortified milk and milk products and fortified cereals. Sun exposure can help the body make some vitamin D. If you have a deficiency, you may need supplements, but talk to your doctor first.

2. Do weight-bearing exercises

Add weight-bearing exercises to your routine to strengthen your bones. Dr. Nur says resistance training, yoga, running and other workouts can help maintain your bone integrity.

Make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition for your level of activity. Intense exercise, like training for a marathon, without adjusting your food intake could be a recipe for stress fractures.

3. Schedule osteoporosis screening

Don’t skip screenings. DEXA scans, also called bone densitometry scans, use X-ray imaging to measure bone density. If the test indicates osteoporosis, your doctor may be able to slow its progression and prevent further bone loss.

4. Practice fall safety

Fall prevention is something Dr. Nur discusses with all her patients in the Fragility Fracture Program. A bad fall can cause a broken hip, which is difficult to heal from.

Make your home safer by:

  • Making sure walkways are clear
  • Removing rugs or things you could trip over
  • Keeping often used items nearby
  • Installing rails or grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower, as well as next to the toilet
  • Making sure your house is well-lit by adding more or brighter light bulbs

5. Have your eyes checked

Having poor vision can increase your chances of falling. It’s important to have your eyes checked by an eye doctor every year and update your glasses when needed.

6. Go over medications with your doctor

Review your medications with your doctor every year. This will help avoid dangerous mix-ups between drugs. It will also make sure you are not taking more medicine than you need, which can lead to falls.

About the Scripps Fragility Fracture Program

Dr. Nur and her team at Scripps provide comprehensive bone care, including diagnosis, treatment, education and prevention. They also assess patients’ risks and work to determine the root causes of their health issues.

“Patients of all ages are welcomed,” says Dr. Nur. “We can see everybody who has had what you might consider a fragility fracture, so we're adding secondary prevention of a future fracture.”


Primary care providers refer patients to this program if they have had a suspicious fracture or are at risk of falling. “A lot of primary care is getting people to care about their bones before they have a fracture,” Dr. Nur says.

The program helps people with stress injuries, fractures from minor falls and those with poor balance. It does not treat severe trauma.

The program works with specialists in other areas, such as endocrinologists, nutritionists and physical therapists, to determine the cause of bone loss and recommend treatments, such as medications or bisphosphonate infusions. These treatments help slow down bone loss.

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