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Your Guide to Strong Bones

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones break easily with a minor event such as lifting, twisting, tripping, slipping, stumbling or falling. Most osteoporotic fractures occur in the hip, spine, shoulder or wrist.

Broken bones can be painful. Even after they heal you may not be strong. A broken hip is especially serious for older people, often leaving them disabled.

Good Nutrition Is Important For Strong Bones

  • Eat a balanced diet from all four food groups to help keep bones strong and prevent fractures.
  • Vitamin D is important to keep your bones strong and also to prevent falls. All adults in Canada should take a vitamin D supplement all year round. Ask your doctor for the right dose for you.
  • Calcium is important for bone health. It is best to get your calcium from food sources, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, calcium-fortified soy/almond/rice beverage and calcium- fortified orange juice. If you don’t eat many dairy products or other calcium-fortified foods, you may need a calcium supplement. Do not take a calcium supplement on your own. Check with your doctor first.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol in your diet to two or fewer drinks per day.
  • Stop smoking.

How much calcium and vitamin D do you need each day?

Age Calcium Vitamin D
19-50 1000 mg 400 – 1000 IU
50+ 1200 mg 800 – 2000 IU

mg = milligrams          IU = international units

Calcium Content of Some Common Foods

Food Source Portion Calcium
Milk – 2%, 1%, skim, chocolate 1 cup / 250 mL 300 mg
Calcium enriched milk 1 cup / 250 mL 400 mg
Cheese – Cheddar, Edam, Gouda 1 ¼”/ 3 cm cube 245 mg
Yogurt – plain ¾ cup / 185 mL 295 mg
Salmon, with bones, canned ½ can / 105 g 240 mg
Fortified soy beverage 1 cup / 250 mL 285 mg
Fortified orange juice 1 cup / 250 mL 300 mg
Soybeans – cooked 1 cup / 250 mL 170 mg
Tofu – with calcium sulfate 3 oz. / 84 g 130 mg
Instant oatmeal – calcium enriched 1 pouch / 32 g 150 mg
Figs – dried 10 150 mg

Exercise to Keep Your Bones and Muscles Strong

  • Strong muscles help to maintain strong bones. Perform exercises to increase muscle strength using resistance bands or weights at least 3 times per week, and target all major muscle groups.
  • Falls can lead to broken bones. Improve your balance and coordination with daily balance exercises or tai chi.
  • Perform aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. To maintain bone strength, exercises where your bones have to carry your weight (e.g., brisk walking, dancing) are better than exercises where your weight is supported (e.g., swimming, biking).
  • Do exercises to maintain or improve posture daily, such as spinal extension exercises.
  • Older adults with osteoporosis or broken bones of the spine require an exercise program that includes strength and balance training. Those with spine fractures need to learn proper postural alignment for everyday activity, and should consult with a physical therapist.

Are You at Risk?

Everyone over age 50 should speak to their doctor about their risks for broken bones. Your doctor should measure your height annually and go over your risk factors to see if you need a bone density test. Some important risk factors that indicate a need for bone density testing include age over 65, you had a prior fracture after age 40, one of your parents suffered a broken hip or you are on a medication called prednisone.

Medication to Make Your Bones Stronger

Sometimes good diet and exercise aren’t enough to keep your bones strong and prevent fractures. You may need to take medication too. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Charitable Registration #: 89551 0931 RR0001 • © Osteoporosis Canada, January 2014. English version.

Osteoporosis Canada 1-800-463-6842


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