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Three Top Strategies for Protecting Bone Health

Projections show the prevalence of osteoporosis and osteopenia in Australians age 50+ increasing from 66% in 2012 to 86% in 2022.[1]

Direct economic costs total $3.44 billion, with more than 2/3 of that cost coming from fractures.[2] Fortunately, there are easy things we can and should be doing to improve our bone health.

Weight-bearing Exercise

Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running, and weightlifting improves bone mineral density and bone mineral content. Any exercise is better than none, but four times per week or more is better than three times per week or less.[3]

Alcohol and Tobacco

Smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis 24%, and being a smoker and a drinker increases the likelihood of osteoporosis 39%.[4]

Consume Optimal Amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D

Various sources recommend calcium intake between 700 and 1200 mg per day to reduce the likelihood of bone fragility. The body needs vitamin D to use calcium, so 600 to 800 mg of vitamin D is also needed daily. Ideally, calcium will come from vegetable consumption, as supplementation has shown little effect on osteoporosis. Too much calcium could be harmful, further discouraging excessive supplementation.

Sources of calcium

  • Tofu (calcium fortified).
  • Soy milk (calcium fortified).
  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale).
  • Chinese cabbage or bok choy.
  • Beans/legumes.
  • Tortillas.
  • Sardines/salmon with edible bones.
  • Shrimp.
  • Orange juice (calcium fortified).
  • Nuts/almonds.
  • Dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese, yogurt).



  1. Watts JJ, Abimanyi-Ochom J, Sanders KM. Osteoporosis costing all Australian: a new burden of disease analysis—2012 to 2022. Sydney: Osteoporosis Australia; 2013.
  2. Tatangelo G, Watts J, Lim K, Connaughton C, Abimanyi‐Ochom J, Borgström F, Nicholson GC, Shore‐Lorenti C, Stuart AL, Iuliano‐Burns S, Seeman E. The cost of osteoporosis, osteopenia, and associated fractures in Australia in 2017. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2019 Apr;34(4):616-25.
  3. Ishikawa S, Kim Y, Kang M, Morgan DW. Effects of weight-bearing exercise on bone health in girls: a meta-analysis. Sports Medicine. 2013 Sep;43(9):875-92.
  4. Yang CY, Lai JC, Huang WL, Hsu CL, Chen SJ. Effects of sex, tobacco smoking, and alcohol consumption osteoporosis development: Evidence from Taiwan biobank participants. Tobacco Induced Diseases. 2021;19.
  5. Cano A, Chedraui P, Goulis DG, Lopes P, Mishra G, Mueck A, Senturk LM, Simoncini T, Stevenson JC, Stute P, Tuomikoski P. Calcium in the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis: EMAS clinical guide. Maturitas. 2018 Jan 1;107:7-12.

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