Most women between 25 and 50 years old get only about one-third of the U.S. recommended daily allowance of calcium their bodies require. Broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, low-fat yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale or collards are all calcium-rich foods that can easily be added to your diet.
If you don’t eat these foods (or fear you aren’t getting enough of them), adding a calcium supplement might help if you also include a multi-vitamin, which adds a safe dose of vitamin D (necessary for calcium absorption). Foods like red meats, dark-colored soft drinks, alcohol and caffeine can reduce the amount of calcium in the body and actually promote bone loss when taken in abundance.
Along with eating right, exercising 30 to 45 minutes three times a week, particularly doing weight-bearing exercise like running, tennis, aerobics, ballet dancing or weight lifting, is essential in preventing osteoporosis.
“Weight bearing exercises like lifting weights causes the muscle to move against the bone which, researchers think, stimulates the bone to generate,” says Liz Kissam-Horaz, a YWCA assistant director and certified personal trainer.
According to Kissam-Horaz, exercises like swimming and water aerobics—which are affected by buoyancy—are not as effective in warding off bone density loss, although they might be good for fighting other age-related disorders like heart disease, hypertension and obesity.
Kissam-Horaz says that although it is a good idea to check with a physician before beginning any new exercise regiment, it is almost never too late to begin a weight-bearing exercise program.
“The body is a very smart machine, adapting when it needs to,” she says. “It’s the best machine around.”