Calcium is important for bone health and for many other functions in your body. For example, your muscles require calcium to contract. Calcium is also needed for blood clotting and sending nerve impulses. If there is not enough calcium circulating in the blood for all these processes, calcium is “borrowed” from the bone. Prolonged borrowing speeds bone loss. That’s why it’s important to consume adequate amounts of calcium in your diet.
Calcium and vitamin D requirements for the treatment of osteoporosis are higher than recommendations for the general population. Typically, calcium intake should range between 1200 mg and 1500 mg daily. Vitamin D recommendations typically range between 400 IU and 800 IU daily. One of the functions of vitamin D is that it increases calcium absorption in the gut by 30 to 80 percent.
Does your diet have enough calcium?
Each day count up your servings. Make sure it adds up to what you need. Dairy products and calcium-fortified foods have the most calcium. Remember to choose low- or nonfat dairy products.
You get 300 mg of calcium from:
1 cup (8 ounces) of milk or calcium-fortified orange juice
a cup of yogurt
2 ounces of cheese
3–4 servings will give you about 1000 mg calcium per day, 5 servings will give you 1500 mg. Dark green vegetables, beans, and some tofu (check label) can be used to increase calcium (1 cup = 100 mg).
Optimal Daily Calcium Intake For Women:
Pregnant or nursing – 1500 mg
25-50 years – 1000 mg
50-65 years on estrogen – 1000 mg; not on estrogen – 1500 mg
Over 65 1500 mg
What if I don’t get enough calcium in my diet?
If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet you may use supplements to get to your optimal intake. Be sure to check the number of milligrams of elemental calcium in the supplements so that you achieve the optimal daily intake.
We recommend also taking 400 units (IU) of vitamin D each day (800 units for the homebound elderly). Calcium is best absorbed in doses of 600 mg or less taken on an empty stomach. However, seniors and those taking medicines for indigestion or acidity should take calcium with food. Because calcium may cause constipation remember to drink plenty of water.
There are several different types of calcium supplements: calcium carbonate is suitable for most people; an alternative is calcium citrate. Calcium and vitamin supplements may be purchased from Group Health pharmacies.
What else can I do to protect my bones?
Prevent falls, while osteoporosis weakens bones, a fall is often what causes them to break. High-heeled or loose-fitting shoes, loose throw rugs, slippery bathtubs, and wet, mossy steps can all cause falls. If you have limited vision or balance you are more likely to fall. You should always turn on lights when walking in dark places. Also, use non-slip bath mats, bathroom grab rails, handrails, canes, or walkers. Be particularly careful in using alcohol or medications which affect alertness.
Stay active, Prolonged inactivity produces rapid bone loss. Stay as active as possible. (www.ghc.org)