May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month

    Bone is living tissue. It's constantly being replaced by new bone. Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone or when too much existing bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both.

Images of female adults starting with young to middle-aged to older showing how weak bones can cause the spine to collapse as we age

   Anyone can suffer osteoporosis. Bones can become fragile and are more likely to fracture due to the loss of density. Density is the amount of mineral matter per square centimeter of bone. Bone mineral density (or BMD) is used in clinical medicine as a method of measuring bone loss and fracture risk.

    One mineral that's important in the building of bones is calcium. About 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth. Each day we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces, but our bodies can't produce new calcium. It's important that we get enough calcium for our bodies through food that we eat. If we don't, it will be taken from our bones. Over time this leaching from the bones causes osteoporosis.  Studies indicate that 16 percent of women and 4 percent of men ages 50 and older have osteoporosis.

What foods contain calcium?

    Sources include dairy products like low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Vegetables that contain calcium are soy beans, okra, collard greens, spinach, kale, and broccoli. Brazil nuts, almonds, sesame and chia seeds are calcium rich foods. Juices such as orange, apple, and mandarin contain significant amounts of calcium as well as some breakfast foods like soymilk, cereals, and breads.

How much calcium does your body need?

Women are prone to osteoporosis earlier in life than men. The following recommendations includes the total daily amount of calcium from food and supplements.

50 and younger - 1,000 mg
51 and older - 1,200 mg

70 and younger 1,000 mg
70 and older 1,200 mg

What About Supplements?

    I strongly believe that we should try to get our nutrients from whole foods. But, I understand that not all of us can do this with our busy lives, family schedules and other commitments. If you feel you need to take supplements here are some good guidelines to follow.
  • Look for labels that state purified or have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol. The USP Verified Mark on the supplement label means the the USP has tested and found the calcium supplement to meet standards for purity and quality.
  • When reading the label, pay close attention to the amount per serving and serving size.
  • Avoid taking it all at once each day. Calcium is absorbed best when taken in amounts of 500 – 600 mg or less.
  • Take your calcium supplements with food.
  • When starting a new calcium supplement, start with a smaller amount to better tolerate it such as 200 - 300 mg daily for the first week and include plenty of water.
  • Most importantly talk with your healthcare provider about possible interactions between your prescriptions or over-the-counter medications and calcium supplements.

      Sometimes bone loss occurs without any cause. But there are a few tendencies science has observed. The tendency to have bone loss and thin bones is passed down through families. White women are more likely to have bone loss issues. Other causes include medical conditions, medications,  low body weight, menopause, drinking large amounts of alcohol , smoking and being confined to bed.

     Awareness and prevention is your best line of defense. It's important to have regular bone density screenings so that you and your physician can prepare the best course of action for you.