Our Parents
Senior Health
Senior Living Options
Finances & Legal
Products for Seniors
About Us
A pink banner with the OurParents logo

Osteoporosis vs Osteoarthritis

Written by Casey Kelly-Barton
 about the author
2 minute readLast updated April 10, 2023

Senior health experts say staying active is a key to healthy aging, because exercise and proper eating can reduce the likelihood of mobility-reducing bone loss and arthritis. People who already have osteoporosis or osteoarthritis may also benefit from making positive lifestyle changes. Here are the most common recommendations for prevention and treatment.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Who gets osteoporosis?

More than 40 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis or are at high risk. Women are more likely than men to lose bone mass with age, but both genders are affected. People with certain medical conditions, such as anorexia nervosa and undiagnosed celiac disease, are at higher risk, even at younger ages.
Among older adults, risk factors include:
  • Small stature
  • Thinness
  • Caucasian and Asian ancestry
  • Family history of the disease
  • Inactivity
  • Poor calcium intake
  • Smoking

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Who gets osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis — painful cartilage damage and reduced joint mobility — is the most common type of arthritis, especially among older people. Everyone’s risk rises with age, but people with a history of joint injuries or repetitive joint stress, and overweight people are particularly at risk. Osteoarthritis, over time, can lead to larger issues such as knee or other joint replacements.  Although it’s possible for people to develop both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, research indicates that osteoarthritis patients are less likely than average to also suffer bone density loss.

Eating habits for healthier bones and joints

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables helps the body absorb calcium for bone maintenance. It’s also crucial to get enough calcium to begin with. Current recommendations are:
  • 1,200 mg per day for women over 50 and men over 70
  • 1,000 mg per day for men between 50 and 70.
Vitamin D is part of the equation, too. The National Institutes of Health recommends at least 600 international units daily for adults age 51 to 70 and 800 IUs per day for older people.
Fresh produce that helps build bones is also recommended to reduce arthritis inflammation. Whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, and lean protein all contribute to bone density and reduce joint inflammation. Glucosamine sulfate dietary supplements are likely effective at reducing knee pain caused by osteoarthritis, too.

Exercise for bone density and range of motion

Exercise recommendations vary by patient. These are based on age, the extent of bone loss or joint pain, and other factors. Weight-bearing exercises likes walking, jogging, and lifting weights helps keep bones healthy, while low-impact yoga and tai chi can help with joint mobility. If your loved one already has bone loss or joint issues, ask their doctor about safe exercise options.

Talk with a Senior Care Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

Medical help for bone and joint issues

There are a number of hormone treatments and drugs available to stop and even reverse bone loss. For osteoarthritis, treatment focuses on pain relief with over-the-counter medicines or prescription painkillers. For both conditions, physical therapy and special exercises may offer improvement, as may acupuncture, massage, and meditation.
Finally, because bone loss can happen without symptoms, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density testing for women at age 65 and men at age 70, with earlier scans for anyone over 50 who breaks a bone, loses height, or has osteoporosis risk factors.
Eating well and exercising are the main ways to reduce the risk of bone fractures and joint pain. But remember that your loved one’s doctor and physical therapist can help get them moving again, too.


Meet the Author
Casey Kelly-Barton

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.