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October 2013

Bone Basics: From Calcium to Vitamin D

Bones play many roles in the body; providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. Although bones are developed early in life, as we age, steps can be taken to keep bones strong and healthy.

Factors that Affect Bone Health

  • The amount of calcium in your diet.
  • Physical activity - improves bone density.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use– have a negative impact on bone health.
  • Gender, size and age - thin older woman are at higher risk for osteoporosis.
  • Race and family history - if you are white, of Asian descent, or have a family history, risks are greater for osteoporosis.
  • Hormone levels - too much thyroid, low estrogen or testosterone can cause bone loss.
  • Certain medications used long term, such as prednisone, can be damaging to bones.

Keys to Keep Bones Healthy
Protecting your bones is vital as falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults.

  • Plenty of calcium from food is essential to strong bones.
  • Pay attention to Vitamin D - to absorb calcium your body must have adequate vitamin D.
  • Magnesium may improve bone density.
  • Be physically active - walking can slow bone loss.
  • Do not smoke and minimize alcohol consumption.  Woman should have no more than 1 and men 2 alcoholic beverages a day.
  • Get a bone density test to determine if you have osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis. 
  • Recent research suggests that green tea may boost bone formation.

Eating for Bone Health

Focus on food instead of pills.  Recent studies suggest supplements may do more harm than good.  Women should have 1200 mg, men 60-70 yr. 1000 mg and 70(+) 1200 mg of calcium daily.  This includes the calcium from food we eat.

A typical diet contains about 300 mg of calcium.  Add dairy products to this which average 300 mg per serving.  Other good food sources of calcium include; salmon, sardines, spinach, greens including kale and fortified products.  Space calcium rich foods over the day to improve absorption.

Consider a supplement only if you cannot reach the calcium goal from the foods you eat.  This is just to fill the gap. Do not go over the recommended amount of calcium each day.

Is essential to absorb calcium. The daily “D” goal is 800 IU.  Make the most of the few good food sources; salmon, sardines, tuna and D fortified products.  Enjoy a little safe sun exposure.  Get your “D” level in your blood checked.  You may need a supplement.

Choose foods rich in magnesium; spinach, oatmeal, pinto beans, lentils, yogurt, halibut, whole grain bread, banana and nuts instead of a supplement. 


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