Affecting more than 10 million Americans, osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures. Although any bone can be affected, the most common fractures occur in the wrist, hips, and spine. In extreme cases, bones can deteriorate to the point where even a sneeze can cause damage.

The good news is that certain lifestyle changes can help lower your risk of developing this degenerative disease. Read on for eight ways you can start protecting yourself right now.

1. Eat well.

Magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamin K are beneficial for bone health, but calcium and vitamin D are especially important. The recommended daily allowance for calcium is 1,000 to 1,200 mg, and 400 to 800 IU for vitamin D, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. The best sources for calcium are low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli, and almonds. Fatty fish and fortified breakfast cereals provide a good amount of vitamin D. If you know your daily diet does not fulfill these goals, you can turn to multivitamins and other supplements to make up the deficit, although acquiring these vitamins and nutrients from food is always best.

2. Hold the salt.

Several studies have linked high-sodium diets with lower calcium absorption. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, each extra gram of salt consumed per day by an adult woman is projected to produce an additional bone loss rate of 1 percent per year.

3. Add a dash of turmeric.

Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine have discovered that the extract of this Asian spice can block pathways in the body that lead to the disintegration of bone.

4. Take a gravitational approach to exercise.

Experts overwhelmingly agree: When you fight gravity through weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, hiking, dancing, weightlifting, and tennis, your muscles pull on your bones, which can go a long way toward building up bone density.

5. Maintain a healthy body mass index.

There really is such a thing as being too thin: A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that young women with a constitutionally thin frame and a very low BMI often have low bone mass. This places them at an increased risk for osteoporosis.

6. Avoid smoking and excessive drinking.

Smoking has been shown to lower levels of estrogen, a hormone that plays a vital role in bone protection. What's more, heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to increased bone loss, according to the National Institutes of Health.

7. Know your medical history.

Genetics plays a major role in the development of osteoporosis-and knowing if you are at higher risk can prompt you to take the necessary precautions. Low estrogen levels, eating disorders, celiac disease, diabetes, previous broken bones, organ transplants, and steroid use are among the many factors that can also contribute to the disease.

8. Have your bone density checked.

A bone mineral density test can determine if you suffer from low bone density, predict the likelihood of future fractures, and help you and your doctor decide whether you need treatment. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that all women over 65 get regular screenings, regardless of their risk factors.