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Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Osteoporosis: Taking Calcium and Vitamin D
Bone thinning occurs as part of the
natural process of aging. If the thinning continues to the point that your
bones become fragile and in danger of breaking, you have osteoporosis. But
osteoporosis is considered a preventable disease.
Calcium should always be taken with vitamin D, because vitamin D is
needed for the body to absorb calcium.
Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need the same amount of calcium
and vitamin D as other women their age.
If I am a woman older than age 50, I need about 1,200
mg of calcium a day to keep my bones strong and healthy.
The recommended daily amount of calcium for women older than 50 is 1,200 mg. Postmenopausal women need to increase the
calcium in their diets to reduce the effects of bone loss, which naturally
occurs after menopause. Osteoporosis develops as a result of bone loss. Calcium
helps slow the rate of bone loss.
Continue to Why?
Calcium, combined with vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise, keeps bone
loss from getting worse or helps reduce the rate of bone loss that occurs with
osteoporosis. Your bones need
vitamin D to absorb calcium. Taking vitamin D along with calcium can help strengthen your
Calcium increases bone mass and reduces the risk for
Calcium helps build strong bones. The stronger
your bones are, the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis. Getting enough
daily calcium when you have osteoporosis will help reduce bone loss.
Continue to How?
foods contain high amounts of calcium. It is important that you also get enough
vitamin D along with calcium to help your body absorb the
Calcium is in foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Vegetables like broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage have calcium. You can get calcium if you eat the soft edible bones in canned sardines and canned salmon. Foods with added (fortified) calcium include some cereals, juices, soy drinks, and tofu. The food label will show how much calcium was added.
Vitamin D is in foods such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. These are some of the best foods to eat when trying to get more vitamin D. Other foods with vitamin D, but in small amounts, include cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. You can also get vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk and some cereals, orange juices, yogurts, margarines, and soy drinks.
For example, a good source of calcium is fat-free milk fortified with vitamin
D. Four cups a day provide about 1,200 mg of calcium. Other good sources of
calcium include shrimp, blackstrap molasses, calcium-fortified tofu, and
Everyone who has been diagnosed
with osteoporosis should try to
eat a diet rich in these nutrients. People who do not get enough calcium from their diet may need to take a
calcium supplement with vitamin D.
Types of calcium
You can get calcium supplements at most grocery stores and pharmacies. They come in tablets, chewables, and capsules. Not all supplements contain the same amount of calcium or contain vitamin D, so read the label to see which one is best for you.
Consider how much calcium and vitamin D you normally get in your diet. Then each day take the number of tablets that satisfies your
daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D based on your age and health condition. Be careful not to take more than you need.
I am 35 years old and drink 2 cups of milk a day.
That's enough calcium to reduce my risk of bone loss.
Drinking milk fortified with vitamin D can be a
great way to get calcium. But you would have to drink 3 to 4 cups a day to
get the recommended 1,000 mg of calcium a day. You may need to add additional foods
such as a cup of yogurt or some salmon to
get the recommended daily amount for your age.
I am a woman older than 65, and I do not eat dairy
products. I can get enough calcium by taking a good calcium supplement along
with getting enough vitamin D to help my body absorb the
Taking 1,200 mg of calcium supplements combined with 600 IU of vitamin D a day can provide all the daily calcium
you need. You may also want to consider supplementing your daily diet with
other foods rich in calcium so your body can absorb small amounts of calcium
throughout each day.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this
information, you can feel confident that you know how to get enough calcium
daily to prevent or treat osteoporosis and reduce your
risk for bone loss.
If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you
visit your doctor. You may want to use a highlighting pen to mark areas or make
notes in the margins of the pages where you have questions.
Return to topic:
Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements. Available online: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/New%20Material/2_%20RDA%20and%20AI%20Values_Vitamin%20and%20Elements.pdf.
Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, vitamins. Available online: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/New%20Material/7_%20Nutrients%20Summary.pdf.
November 6, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
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