Skip To Content
Our bones support us and allow us to move. They protect our brain, heart, and other organs from injury. Our bones also store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous, which help keep our bones strong, and release them into the body when we need them for other uses.
There are many things we can do to keep our bones healthy and strong. Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, getting plenty of exercise, and having good health habits help keep our bones healthy.
But if we don’t eat right and don’t get enough of the right kinds of exercise, our bones can become weak and even break. Broken bones (called fractures) can be painful and sometimes need surgery to heal. They can also cause long-lasting health problems.
But the good news is that it is never too late to take care of your bones.
There are many kinds of bone diseases. The most common one is osteoporosis (AH-stee-oh-por-OH-sis). With osteoporosis, our bones become weak and are more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the wrist, spine, and hip.
Our bones are alive. Every day, our body breaks down old bone and puts new bone in its place. As we get older, our bones break down more bone than they put back. It is normal to lose some bone as we age. But, if we do not take steps to keep our bones healthy, we can lose too much bone and get osteoporosis.
Many people have weak bones and don’t even know it. That’s because bone loss often happens over a long period of time and doesn’t hurt. For many people, a broken bone is the first sign that they have osteoporosis.
There are many things that can increase your chances of getting osteoporosis. These things are called “risk factors.” Some risk factors are things you can control, and some things are outside of your control.
Because more women get osteoporosis than men, many men think they are not at risk for the disease. Many Hispanic and African American women are not concerned about their bones either. They believe that osteoporosis is only a problem for white women. However, it is a real risk for older men and women from all backgrounds.
Also, people from certain ethnic backgrounds may be more likely to have other health problems that increase their risk for bone loss. If you have one of the following health problems, talk to your doctor about your bone health:
Since osteoporosis does not have any symptoms until a bone breaks, it is important to talk to your doctor about your bone health. If your doctor feels that you are at risk for osteoporosis, he or she may order a bone density test. A bone density test measures how strong–or dense–your bones are and whether you have osteoporosis. It can also tell you what your chances are of breaking a bone. Bone density tests are quick, safe, and painless.
It is never too early or too late to take care of your bones. The following steps can help you improve your bone health:
|Life-stage group||Calcium mg/day||Vitamin D (IU/day)|
|Infants 0 to 6 months||200||400|
|Infants 6 to 12 months||260||400|
|1 to 3 years old||700||600|
|4 to 8 years old||1,000||600|
|9 to 13 years old||1,300||600|
|14 to 18 years old||1,300||600|
|19 to 30 years old||1,000||600|
|31 to 50 years old||1,000||600|
|51- to 70-year-old males||1,000||600|
|51- to 70-year-old females||1,200||600|
|>70 years old||1,200||800|
|14 to 18 years old, pregnant/lactating||1,300||600|
|19 to 50 years old, pregnant/lactating||1,000||600|
Definitions: mg = milligrams; IU = International Units
Source: Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 2010.
There are medicines to help prevent and treat osteoporosis. Your doctor may want you to take medicine if your bone density test shows that your bones are weak and that you have a good chance of breaking a bone in the future. Your doctor is more likely to order medicine if you have other health concerns that increase your risk for breaking a bone, such as a tendency to fall or a low body weight.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducts research studies all over the country in which people take part as volunteers. These studies help uncover new risk factors and treatments for osteoporosis and other diseases.
There are many benefits to being part of a research study, such as getting related medical care at no charge and, in some cases, help with travel and other costs. Also, study volunteers are seen by a team of experts and are often among the first to receive new treatments ahead of the general public. Many volunteers take part in the research simply because they want to help others with the same disease, both today and in the future.
More information on research is available from the following websites:
For more information on osteoporosis and bone health, contact any of the following organizations:
If you need more information about available resources in your language or another language, please visit our website or contact the NIAMS Information Clearinghouse at NIAMSinfo@mail.nih.gov.
You may be able to help scientists learn more about these conditions.
For information about research projects across the country, call:
Toll free: 877–22–NIAMS (226–4267)
You could make a difference!
This publication contains information about medications used to treat the health condition discussed here. When this publication was developed, we included the most up-to-date (accurate) information available. Occasionally, new information on medication is released.
For updates and for any questions about any medications you are taking, please contact
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Toll Free: 888–INFO–FDA (888–463–6332)
For additional information on specific medications, visit Drugs@FDA at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/drugsatfda. Drugs@FDA is a searchable catalog of FDA-approved drug products.
For updates and questions about statistics, please contact:
Toll free: 800–232–4636
The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse is a public service sponsored by NIAMS that provides health information and information sources. Additional information can be found on the NIAMS website at www.niams.nih.gov.
This publication is not copyrighted. You can make copies of it and give out as many as you want.
Additional copies of this publication are available from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, NIAMS/National Institutes of Health, 1 AMS Circle, Bethesda, MD 20892-3675, and on the NIAMS website at www.niams.nih.gov.
NIH Pub. No. 12-7847-E