Outdoor exercise, brought on by the warmer weather, may help to achieve better bone health, as well as improved muscle tone and weight control. Building strong bones can be the best defense against osteoporosis and exercise is a key component of that defense.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become thin and weak, often resulting in fractures. In New York State, at least 3 million women and men age 50 and older either have osteoporosis or are at high risk for developing osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month in May provides an ideal opportunity to review your risks and resolve to reduce those that you can.

Reduce your risk by adopting healthy lifestyle

You can reduce that risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes the following components:

Eat a balanced diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D.

Participate in regular exercise, including weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening, postural and balance exercises.

Avoid tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption.

Take safety precautions to prevent falls.

Identify your personal risk factors for osteoporosis. (Worksheets for assessing your risk are available at the New York State Department of Health website at https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/1988/)

Get a bone mineral density test when appropriate. Use the risk assessment work sheet mentioned above and consult your doctor about whether you need to be tested.

When necessary, take osteoporosis medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration. If your doctor does prescribe medications for osteoporosis prevention and/or treatment, review the risks and benefits.

Information is available at www.health.ny.gov/publications/1984/index.htm.

Take action to promote healthy bones

Bone is a living and growing tissue that is constantly being renewed throughout life. Bone-healthy actions should begin in childhood and continue throughout your lifetime. It is never too late, however, to take action to promote healthy bones.

An ideal exercise program combines weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening, postural and balance exercises. Weight-bearing exercise is any physical activity in which your body works against gravity. This type of exercise builds bone mass in youth and maintains it in adulthood. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, dancing and climbing stairs. Muscle-strengthening exercises build muscle that helps support your bones. Lifting weights, using resistance bands and exercising on resistance machines are ways to strengthen muscle. Proper body alignment and postural-training exercises promote correct posture and may help to minimize stooped posture resulting from osteoporosis. Tai Chi is an example of a type of exercise that teaches balance and may be beneficial to reduce the risk of falling.

Calcium is a mineral that makes bone dense (thick) and strong. From childhood through early adulthood, you build your bone bank. Peak bone mass, defined as the maximum bone density you will ever have, is largely determined by your genetics and reached between ages 18 and 25. After that, the healthy action you take can help maintain bone mass. It is important and easy to meet your daily calcium recommendation by choosing a well-balanced, calcium rich diet. This diet can include low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, nondairy foods such as dried figs, salmon and some greens and fortified foods such as cereal and juices. Current recommended intakes for calcium are 500 mg for ages 1 to 3, 800 mg for ages 4 to 8, 1,300 mg for ages 9 to 18, 1,000 mg for ages 19 to 50 and 1,200 mg for ages 51 and older.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. Although many people are able to obtain enough vitamin D naturally through exposure to sunlight, some people require supplements.

Osteoporosis education is a priority in New York State

The New York State Osteoporosis Prevention Education Program provides information about the causes of osteoporosis, the value of prevention and early detection and options for treatment. Regional centers were selected to lead osteoporosis education throughout the state.

Hudson Valley: Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, 845-786-4772

Metro New York: Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, 212-606-1057

Long Island: Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, 631-444-9034

Western: Osteoporosis Resource Center, Buffalo, 716-862-2663

Central: SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, 1-800-464-8668

Northeastern: Glens Falls Hospital, Glens Falls, 518-926-1000