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Strong, Healthy Bones for Life
At around age 40 bone loss naturally begins to occur and maintaining strong, healthy bones is crucial to preventing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a medical condition where bones become thin, brittle and porous due to loss of protein and mineral content; calcium in particular. Osteoporosis is characterized by reduced bone strength making them increasingly fragile and prone to breaking. In older adults, falls and broken bones can significantly decrease one’s quality of life.
What increases the risk of developing osteoporosis?
- Genetics and family history of osteoporosis
- Decreased estrogen levels in women once they transition to menopause
- Cigarette smoking and alcohol intake
- Diets low in calcium
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Lack of exercise
- Prolonged use of certain medications
Tips to maintain strong, healthy bones for life
- Exercise: Aim to exercise 30 minutes per day, five days per week and include weight-bearing and strength training exercises such as weight lifting, running, climbing stairs, dancing, yoga, and aerobics. Ensure you choose exercises at an intensity level appropriate for your abilities. The force exerted on the muscles and joints triggers your body to strengthen bone.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking: These lifestyle behaviours are correlated with reduced bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Avoid cola drinks: The phosphoric acid in these drinks binds to calcium preventing absorption. They also increase the acidity of the blood and cause calcium to be released from the bones to neutralize the acid.
- Get some sun: 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight, avoid peak hours 11 am to 3 pm, will increase skin’s production of vitamin D. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium into bone. Vitamin D supplementation may be necessary during the winter months.
- Incorporate calcium-rich foods into your diet: Dairy products do contain calcium however if you are vegan or have a food sensitivity to dairy there are a variety of other foods to choose from that are rich in calcium including: soy milk, soy beans, tofu, oatmeal, broccoli, kale, arugula, oranges, figs, sardines, salmon, white beans, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
When should I supplement with calcium?
Taking a multivitamin which contains calcium is a great way to increase your daily calcium intake. If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia (reduced bone density) or osteoporosis, taking a higher dose calcium supplement can be beneficial to maintaining strong bones and preventing further bone loss.
Calcium supplements are not all the same, some forms are more easily absorbed than others. Also, calcium alone is not enough. It is recommended that calcium be combined with magnesium, vitamin D and other micro-minerals such as boron, strontium, vitamin K2, copper, manganese and zinc to optimize absorption and deposition into bones.
When it comes to supplementation, always speak to your health care provider to see if calcium supplementation is right for you.