No matter your age or gender, appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin D are necessary. Calcium is a mineral that promotes bone growth, strengthens bone health, aids in blood clotting, initiates nerve impulses, and stimulates muscle contractions. Calcium is found throughout our body, but predominantly resides in our teeth and bones. Calcium is lost through different venues of our body daily, therefore it is necessary to make sure that it is replaced with proper nutrition. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones because it is responsible for the absorption of calcium in the body.
What are Osteopenia and Osteoporosis?
Osteopenia is a decrease in bone density. Bone density is measured by the strength and the density of your bones. Osteopenia is the precursor to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease in which your bones become thin and fragile. When you are diagnosed with osteoporosis you run the risk of fracturing bones easily. Women are at a higher risk for osteoporosis than men because women generally have a lower bone density than men. In addition, as women grow older, they tend to lose bone density quicker than men. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 68% of the 44 million people at risk for osteoporosis are women.
A lot of Americans fall short of having the correct amount of calcium in their diets everyday. Women who are 50 and younger should have 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Women 51 and over should have 1,200 mg of calcium. Men 70 and younger should have 1,000 mg of calcium. Men 71 and older should have 1,200 mg of calcium a day.
How Can We Change That?
If we are not getting enough calcium from the foods we eat, our body taps into the calcium stored in our bones to accommodate. Thus, having a diet that is high in calcium is a necessity. Some foods that are rich in calcium are: cheese, low-fat milk, yogurt, almonds, broccoli, green beans, spinach, kale and turnips.
In order to understand how much calcium you are eating, look carefully at your food labels. These labels list calcium as a percentage of 1,000mg. Therefore, if the label reads 30% of your daily value, that food has 300 mg of calcium. If you still end up following short of your daily calcium requirements, you can supplement it in your diet. However, there are some things you should keep in mind if you are going to take these supplements:
- Talk to your physician before taking these supplements to make sure they are safe for you to take.
- Make sure the supplement is purified and proven reliable.
- Take calcium supplements in small dosages to decrease the risk of side effects. Some side effects might include constipation or gas.
- Make sure you are drinking 6-8 ounces of water with your supplements
Vitamin D: How it impacts your bone health
Vitamin D also serves an important role in maintaining healthy bones. In order to absorb calcium, your body needs Vitamin D. If you do not get enough vitamin D, your body will not be able to absorb the calcium it needs. Some studies have shown that Vitamin D can actually slow down the process of bone loss.
The average amount of Vitamin D needed for men and women under the age of 50 is 400-800 international units per day. Men and women over the age of 50 need 800-1,000 international units per day. Sunlight exposure for 10-15 minutes is 2,000-3,000 IUs; salmon, fortified milk and vitamin D supplements also contain IUs.
It is a necessity to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet and every day activities to maintain healthy bones. Also staying away from smoking and excessive drinking is advised, as well as, maintaining an active lifestyle may help deter the onset of osteoporosis.
By Sally Leahy