Top Tips for Bone Health

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Women's Health, Bone & Joint Health
Last Reviewed 02/18/2014

Top Tips for Bone Health

Bone Health Tip #1: Get Enough Dietary Calcium

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the following approximate daily calcium levels for bone health:

  • Adolescent: 1,200 mg
  • Adult: 1,000 mg
  • Postmenopausal woman not on estrogen replacement therapy (ERT): 1,500 mg
  • Postmenopausal woman on ERT: 1,000 mg

The average American diet supplies 500 to 800 milligrams of calcium daily. You can improve on this by adding one to two glasses of skim milk or one to two glasses of calcium-fortified soy milk, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, sea vegetables, tofu and other soy products.

If you cannot fulfill your calcium requirement from dietary sources alone, supplementation might be a suitable alternative. But do not be overzealous — excess calcium can also promote bone loss due to its interference with manganese absorption. In addition, research has demonstrated that calcium intake of more than 2,000 mg per day may be detrimental to your health because of its negative impact on the absorption of magnesium.

Aim for a ratio of 2:1 of calcium to magnesium for optimal bone health. For example, 1,000 mg calcium with 500 mg magnesium, some additional vitamin D and 1 mg boron in a softgel form is an ideal combination.

Bone Health Tip #2: Let the Sun Shine In

Just 15 minutes of sunlight a day on exposed areas of the body — particularly the hands and legs — along with a healthy diet, should be enough to get your basic requirement of vitamin D. Most high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplements also contain 200-400 units of vitamin D. The RDA for vitamin D is 400 IU per day. Older women may safely take up to 800 IU per day for bone health.

Bone Health Tip #3: Move It!

Weight-bearing exercise is paramount when supporting your bone health. No doubt about it — sedentary people are much more prone to weaker bones. Walking at least 20 minutes a day will help prevent bone loss in your hips. I also recommend weight-bearing aerobic exercise to strengthen the heel of the foot.

Walking to a supermarket with a backpack and filling it up with some groceries is a great way to help bone density in your hips, ankles and heels. Swimming should not be your predominant form of exercise, as it is not weight-bearing; however, aquatic aerobics are fine. Warm up with 20 minutes of stretching of the hamstrings and lower back. Regular exercise not only helps conserve bone health but also maintains flexibility, erect posture and muscle strength.

Bone Health Tip #4: Consider Estrogen

Some studies support estrogen's role in preventing bone loss in certain high-risk women. Although estrogen therapy only helps support bone health for about one year, it can help relatively quickly. And, although the increase is modest, some studies suggest the risk of hip fracture can be reduced during that year by as much as 50 percent to 80 percent.

Bone Health Tip #5: Topical Progesterone

Natural topical progesterone cream can support new bone formation. Rub about 1/4 teaspoon into your hands, chest, arms, face or breasts, where it is readily and quickly absorbed. This unbound type of progesterone enters the bloodstream quickly and is not broken down by the liver like oral micronized progesterone.

Bone Health Tip #6: Salmon Calcitonin

This synthetic version of a natural hormone now formulated as a nasal spray is recommended for people with low bone mass who are more than five years postmenopausal and who can't—or won't—take estrogen. Although the bone-health benefits of salmon calcitonin are less dramatic in some women, the drug also has an additional analgesic effect that may be quite beneficial in those with chronic pain from fractures.

Bone Health Tip #7: Ipriflavone

A synthetic isoflavone, ipriflavone has shown to promote bone formation. It's derived from the soy isoflavone called daidzein. Take 200 mg three times a day for bone health. Until there are more long-term studies on this supplement, I advise short-term use (12 to 18 months). If you must also take estrogen-replacement therapy, be sure to discuss the complications and side effects with your doctor.

Bone Health Tip #8: Alendronate (Fosamax)

This drug has been shown to support bone density of the spine, hip and total body. Caution: Alendronate must be taken according to strict directions to minimize side effects (nausea, diarrhea) reported in up to 30 percent of users. You must be under a doctor's care to consider alendronate, which should only be used in advanced cases of osteoporosis.

Bone Health Tip #9: Prevent Falls

Check your home and workplace for hazards — loose rugs, exposed electrical cords and other clutter under foot — that may increase your chances of a spill. Wear low-heeled, soft-soled shoes to reduce your risk of tripping, and watch those stairs.

Bone Health Tip #10: Weight Training

Add weights to your exercise regimen to promote heart and bone health. Not only does strength training increase endurance, it takes stress off of joints, promotes healthier cartilage and promotes bone growth. It also promotes healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Bone Health Tip #11: Take 80 mcg of Vitamin K Daily

Another option is to eat natto to strengthen and support your bones. Natto is made by boiling or steaming soybeans, then fermenting them with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis natto. Nattokinase in supplement form will not enhance bone. Eating natto is the only way to promote bone health.

Related Articles & Categories
Enjoy What You've Just Read?

Get it delivered to your inbox! Signup for E-News and you'll get great content like you've just read along with other great tips and guides from Dr. Sinatra!