The Bare Bones of Bone Health

The Bare Bones of Bone Health

By 2020, half of all Americans over age 50 will have weak bones. As we age, our bones are affected by genetics, nutrition, exercise and hormonal loss. We cannot change our genes, but we can control our nutrition and activity level, and if necessary, take supplements and osteoporosis medications. No matter what your age, it’s never too late to improve your bone health.


Both calcium and vitamin D work together to build strong bones and keep them strong as you age. Calcium builds bone tissue, but vitamin D helps your body absorb this important nutrient. To have more of these key components in your diet, increase your dairy intake. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheeses, low-fat yogurts, as well as leafy green vegetables and almonds.

Food containing calcium

Vitamin D containing foods, top view

Physical Activity

Regular and varied activity will help you to build stronger, more durable bones. Regular weight-bearing exercises — weight-bearing describes any activity on your feet that works your bones and muscles against gravity, such as brisk walking, jogging, or team sports — turns on your body’s bone-forming cells and helps bones become stronger

Beautiful women working out in gym together

Tips for Healthy Bones

Each year, approximately 1.5 million older Americans suffer fractures because of weak bones. Here are a few things you can do to maintain and improve bone strength:

  • Understand your risk for fracture – Ask your doctor if you need a bone density test.
  • Understand your risk for bone loss – Genetics plays a role in bone health; bone metabolism testing can provide additional information about your risk for fracture.
  • Be active – Strength-building and weight-bearing activities help build strong bones.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Older adults who are overweight have a higher risk for falling; being underweight raises the risk of bone loss.
  • Get Plenty of Calcium and Vitamin D – Good sources are milk and fatty fish, like salmon and tuna.
  • Reduce your risk of falling – Make changes in your home to help prevent a fall; remove obstacles and add safety features, such as grab bars and non-slip mats.
  • Bone-boosting medications – In addition to calcium and Vitamin D supplements, your doctor can recommend drug options that slow bone loss and increase bone strength.

In the last 15 years, we have learned a great deal about bones — the way they work, grow, rebuild, weaken, and break. This knowledge is especially important as Americans are living longer. For more on how you can have healthier bones, visit