Ask the doctors
Q. I know that osteoporosis is linked to hereditary factors that I can't change. But are there things I can do to reduce my risk?
A. It's true that many risk factors for osteoporosis, such as your sex, age, and genes, are not things you can change. But there are things you can do to improve your bone health. This includes adopting a healthy diet that is rich in calcium and getting enough vitamin D, which can help maintain and improve bone health. Regular exercise can also help strengthen your bones or prevent bone loss. In particular, activities that put stress on your bones, such as jumping, running, and weight-bearing exercises, can stimulate bone cells to produce proteins that bolster bone strength. In children, these activities can actually increase bone density. While adults don't gain the same degree of benefit that kids do, exercise can still have moderate effects on bone, helping to maintain strength that might otherwise be lost. To further protect bone health, cut down on unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking excess amounts of alcohol. If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, you might also want to talk to your doctor about whether any of your medications might be harming your bone health.
— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Toni Golen, M.D.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch
Image: adamkaz/Getty Images
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