7 Tips for Healthy Bones and Osteoporosis Prevention

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Copyright 2012-present

Kris Heeter, Ph.D.


No matter what your age, here are seven key tips for reducing the risk of osteoporosis and for maintaining healthy bones:

1. Getting the daily recommended amounts of calcium

2. Getting the daily recommended amount of Vitamin D

3. Getting the daily recommended amount of Vitamin K

4. Engaging in regular weight-bearing or strength training exercises

5. Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol

6. Talking regularly with your health care provider about bone health

7. Having your bone density checked periodically

While calcium and Vitamin D are the two vitamins and minerals talked about the most when it comes to bone health, Vitamin K should not be overlooked. It plays an essential role in bone formation, remodeling and rebuilding.


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Vitamin K and Bone Health

Vitamin K is important for liver function, blood clotting, and proper bone formation.

It functions as a calcium transporter. Vitamin K helps keep bone cells in place as they create new solid structure. Studies show that it helps protect against bone loss and may help prevent fractures.

So, besides Vitamin D, it is important that we get a lot of Vitamin K through natural sources to help prevent loss of bone and fractures as we age!

Dark leafy greens are the best natural sources of Vitamin K. For example, kale has over 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin K.


Vitamin D and Calcium

As pointed out earlier, it is widely known that calcium is needed for creating and maintaining healthy bones.

Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption in the gut and helps maintain adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations that are needed for mineralization of bone. Mineralization of bone is required for bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and that means it needs fat or lipids present for absorption in the gut. Because of this fat solubility requirement, Vitamine D is not naturally occurring in many foods. It's often added as a food additive.

One of the best sources of Vitamin D is the body’s own production. Vitamin D synthesis is triggered in the body when UV rays from sunlight strike the skin. It has been suggested by some studies that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure in the middle of the day, twice a week, to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually leads to sufficient vitamin D synthesis.

Those more sensitive to UV light and at higher risks for skin cancer are typically advised by medical professionals to wear sunscreen. The use of sunscreen may slow down Vitamin D synthesis but, it will not inhibit it completely.

Vitamin D is also important for cell growth, immune function, neuromuscular function and plays a role in reducing of inflammation.


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Maximizing Calcium Absorption

While calcium is often taken as a supplement, absorption of calcium by the body is less efficient from supplements than from natural sources.

Other important considerations for maximizing the absorption of calcium and minimizing calcium excretion from the body include:

  • Many green vegetables have calcium-absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk.
  • Animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, therefore, calcium retention from vegetables is thought to be higher.
  • Caffeine in coffee and tea can modestly increase calcium excretion and reduce absorption.
  • Alcohol can reduce calcium absorption and it inhibits enzymes in the liver that help convert vitamin D to its active form.
  • Diets high in cereal grains increase calcium excretion.
  • Diets high in fruits and vegetables help shift the acid/base balance of the body. This ultimately increases the production of bicarbonate which reduces calcium excretion and promotes calcium absorption.
  • It’s often suggested that someone who takes 1,000 mg/day of calcium through supplements should consider splitting the dose and take 500 mg at two separate times during day. The efficiency of calcium absorption drops significantly if more than 500 mg is ingested at once.


Medications That Can Interfer With Calcium Absorption and Retention

Calcium supplements have the potential to interact with several types of medications and supplements - that interatction can ultimately affect calcium absorption or can promote calcium elimination from the body.

Individuals concerned about osteoporosis should consult with their doctor while taking any of the following medications or supplements on a regular basis.

Calcium absorption can affected by the presence of:

  • Biphosphonates
  • Fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics
  • Tetracycline class of antibiotics
  • Levothyroxine
  • Phenytoin (an anticonvulsant)
  • Tiludronate disodium (used to treat Paget's disease).
  • Thiazide-type diuretics
  • Aluminum- and magnesium-containing antacids
  • Mineral oil and stimulant laxatives
  • Glucocorticoids (e.g., prednisone)


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The Importance of Weight-Bearing and Resistance Exercises

The best exercises for bone health are those that force the body to work against gravity. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, hiking, climbing stairs, walking, jogging, and dancing.

Consistent and regular weight-bearing exercise is a message for the body - ultimately your bones and muscles - that strength is needed. This signals then the body to keep storing the proper minerals to keep the bones strong as the body ages.


Know Your Osteporosis Risk

There are 12 key factors that increase risk for osteoporosis. Being aware of these factors and discussing those that are applicable with your doctor will help you develop a better prevention program:

1. Being female (women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men)

2. Family history of osteoporosis

3. Being Caucasian or Asian - gives a slightly higher risk over other races

4. Smoking

5. Inactive lifestyle

6. Diet low in calcium and vitamin D

7. Diet high in protein, caffeine and/or alcohol

8. Being postmenopausal

9. A broken bone after the age of 40

10. A small or thin body under 127 lbs.

11. An eating disorder that disrupts the menstrual cycle

12. Cortizone or thyroid medication

Source: Indiana State Department of Health


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Comments 18 comments

Diane Dillon profile image

Diane Dillon 4 years ago from Quatsino BC

I HAVE ARTHIRITIS AND OSTEO ARHTRITIS ALL VERY PAINFUL. I DON'T DRINK OR SMOKE . I ALSO HAVE DIABETES. HOW CAN I TURN THIS AROUND. ddenlighten@hotmail.com


RoxiM profile image

RoxiM 4 years ago from West Virginia

Thanks for the tips. I learned something new: I didn't know that it was better to split calcium supplements into 2 doses, or that levothyroxine inhibited absorption of calcium.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

This is a very useful hub to help prevent osteoporosis as so many women end up with this problem as they age. I have been on Prednisone for years due to Lupus, so osteoporosis is a side effect. I have taken Actonel and calcium with vitamin D supplements for years also. This has kept me at the osteopenia stage, which is a step above osteoporosis.

This hub is great information to start young to prevent this disorder.


Diane Dillon profile image

Diane Dillon 4 years ago from Quatsino BC

HI PAMELA, I HAVE LUPUS TOO SINCE 1978 AND DIABETES. I HAVE TERRIBLE PAIN IN BONES AND FEET AND ANKLES ,

OSTEO ARTHRITIS ETC


jasonponic profile image

jasonponic 4 years ago from Albuquerque

Excellent hub!


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@Diane Dillon - I have arthritis too and one of the things that I found to benefit the most was exercise. My arthritis started at the age of 22 (several years after a bad car accident) and it was so painful to go up stairs. Exercising at first was extremely difficult but after several years and not giving up, it helped tremendously.

As far as the diabetes goes, that can be turned around to some extent through diet and exercise. Every case is different but there is hope! I work with clients on this and have seen some amazing results. I had one woman who was told by her doctors she'd be on insulin the rest of her life and she proved them wrong (keep in mind it took 8 years of hard work and a complete lifestyle change to do it).


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@RoxiM - I'm glad you learned something new here! My whole goal is to teach other and share the scientific research that is out there:)


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@Pamela99 - I'm glad to hear you have been able to stop the progression. I see more and more women as clients who have been diagnosed with osteopenia and taking charge to slow or stop the progression into osteoporosis.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana Author

@jasonpoinc - thanks for stopping by!


Diane Dillon profile image

Diane Dillon 4 years ago from Quatsino BC

HI KRIS THANKS FOR THE INFORMATION. I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH MILD DIABETES IN FEBRUARY 2009. I DON'T USE INSULIN. I NEVER SMOKED AND WE IN MY FMAILY DELETED ANY ALCOHOL FORM CHRITAMS AND ANY EVENTS IN 1990, THAT WAS ONLY TIME IT WAS USED. THE LUPUS I HAVE HAD SINCE 1978 AND I HAVE HAD ACCIDENTS AND ALSO CAR ACCIDENT AS WELL. I HAVE PAIN IN KNEES AND FEET AND ANKLES FEELS LIKE LEGHOLD TRAPS

MY SPINE IS BAD TOO DOWN TO HIPS. I WAS IN BETTER SHAPE IN 2008,2009 UP UNTIL 2010 THEN IN 2011 THINGS STARTED TO CHANGE AND GOT WORSE I GAINED 70 POUNDS IN 16 MONTHS. I NEED TO LOSE ALL THE WEIGHT


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 4 years ago from India

Very informative and useful hub

Bottomline is to avoid all the excesses caffeine, drinks, cigarettes..... and to have balanced diet and exercise.

Thanks for sharing


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

Great hub. Here in Canada we need to use the D supplements through the winter as it is extremely rare to get the required sunlight.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

This is a wonderful hub, especially for those of us that are over 40 (or 50). I take calcium supplements every day, they have vitamin K in them also. I get plenty of vitamin D in the spring, summer and fall, but not so much in the winter. I probably need to have my levels checked, as I do drink a lot of coffee and tea, and I still smoke. :( I appreciate all your useful information! Voting up and sharing! :)


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 3 years ago

Those are all good points. The benefits of weight training can not be under-estimated. I find that having a 2.5 pound wrist-weights around the hands as I walk will give me a better workout.

In addition to those listed, the mineral magnesium is important for bone health. Although it is important to get sufficient protein, excessive protein can lead to weakened bones. Protein metabolism makes the blood more acidic and the body has to rebalance the pH level by moving some calcium from the bone to the blood.


mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

Great hub. My best friend just had a spontaneous femur fracture and had to have a rod placed in her leg. The other femur bone is also weak, and they may have to put a rod in to prevent a fracture in the future. She was on fosimax for over 10 years. I wish that more people would use the natural methods that you describe here rather than take biophosphates, which seem to actually cause rather than prevent fragile bones if taken too long. Voted up and useful.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@sgbrown - thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation. It can never hurt to have your levels checked:)


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@BlissfulWriter - I agree, the benefits of weight training should not be under-estimated. I have had clients that have reversed their osteoporosis through weight training (and this was back in the day when doctors were saying that osteoporosis could never be reversed).


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 3 years ago from Indiana Author

@mperrottet - that spontaneous fracture your friend has sounds painful and scary, I wish her the best!

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