Osteoporosis and Bone Health

Osteoporosis is a major cause of broken bones in the elderly. But the broken bone is merely the final evidence of a process that may have begun as early as age 35 and progressed silently over the years. Throughout life, minerals - calcium, in particular - constantly move in and out of bone. After age 35, more calcium leaves bone than is absorbed into it, at a rate that varies from person to person. This results in loss of bone mass. Bones become porous or brittle and susceptible to fracture - the condition of osteoporosis. You can do much to slow or even prevent osteoporosis. Essentially, it amounts to living the "good life." Maintain an active lifestyle, eat well - which includes sufficient calcium intake and avoid tobacco and excessive use of alcohol.

Calcium, Vitamin D and Exercise

The amount of calcium needed to slow osteoporosis is estimated to be 1,000 mg/day for men and premenopausal women, and 1,500 mg/day for postmenopausal women. Each 8-oz glass of milk - whole or skim - supplies about 300 mg of calcium. Calcium is also plentiful in green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, mustard greens, and spinach, and in sardines. Sesame seeds and almonds also are good sources. If you don't like these foods or can't tolerate them, or if you don't want the calories, you can take a calcium supplement. Calcium carbonate (the calcium in Tums) is the most common form of calcium in supplements. Make sure to look closely at the label on your supplement - look for how much "elemental" calcium it contains - that is the important number.

Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb the calcium you eat. I suggest getting 800 IU of vitamin D per day for those under age 60. For older people, I suggest getting a total of about 1200 IU of vitamin D per day. A simple way to do this is to take a multivitamin (which should have 400 IU of D) PLUS a calcium/vitamin D pill (often sold as 600 mg of calcium with 400 IU of vitamin D) once or twice a day (with breakfast and with supper - easier to remember that way). DO NOT take more than 2000 IU of vitamin D unless told to by a doctor - too much vitamin D can be harmful.

Any weight-bearing exercise (like walking, jogging, treadmill, stair-stepper, general aerobics, dancing) will help keep your bones strong.

FoodServingCaloriesCalcium (mg)Phosphorus (mg)
Chedder cheese1 oz115200145
Cream cheese1 oz1002330
Ice cream1 cup270175135
Milk, skim8 oz100300225
Parmesan cheese1 oz130390230
Yogurt, plain1 cup140275210
Broccoli1 cup4013595
Spinach1 cup4016565