Bone Health

Two Steps to Stronger Bones

The bone-weakening condition called osteoporosis is common among older people, but it isn’t an inevitable part of aging, according to experts from Harvard Medical School. Here, they offer some tips on what you can do to help you maintain the bone strength you have, and perhaps even reverse some bone loss.

They say that the strongest weapon in the fight against osteoporosis is daily weight-bearing exercise, like walking. Additionally, getting enough calcium and vitamin D is also important.


Calcium is important for building bones and slowing bone loss. However, the Harvard experts say, it’s not a cure-all. Some researchers have said, in fact, that excess dairy products or calcium may not be healthy.

For people through age 50, the experts say, the recommended daily intake is 1,000 milligrams (mg), while for people 51 or older, the recommended dosage is 1,200. How much calcium? The recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000 milligrams (mg) a day for adults up through age 50 and 1,200 mg a day for people ages 51 and older, when bone loss accelerates.

A word of caution: Some research has indicated that high calcium intake may increase prostate-cancer risk, the Harvard experts say, men shouldn’t take calcium supplements and should avoid taking too many calcium-rich antacids.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is essential because it helps the body absorb calcium. There is research indicating that increasing vitamin D levels can help prevent osteoporosis. Some sources: vitamin-D-fortified food such as milk, cereals, and eggs. Yogurt and juice may also be fortified; check the labels.

Moderate exposure to sun can also help your body manufacture vitamin D. The Harvard experts suggest five to 30 minutes of sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., twice a week to face, legs, arms or back. However, this must be done without sunscreen. If you have fair skin, the experts say, protect yourself against skin cancer by limiting sun exposure to no more than ten minutes.

If you aren’t eating enough fortified foods or getting sufficient sun exposure, the experts say, aim to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily from a supplement.

For more on preventing and treating osteoporosis and developing an effective plan for your bones, buy Osteoporosis: A guide to prevention and treatment, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. Click here to order.