In May, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) celebrates National Osteoporosis Month in order to draw attention to the important issue of bone health. With an estimated 10 million Americans suffering from osteoporosis, the NOF is working to educate the public about the risk factors for this disease, as well as prevention methods.
There are two types of risk factors for osteoporosis: those that can be affected with lifestyle changes and those that cannot. Unpreventable factors are age, gender, and family history. Controllable factors include diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption.
Most Americans understand that calcium is important to bone health, but most probably do not know why or how much calcium they should consume each day. Calcium is important to build stronger, denser bones early in life and to keep bones strong and healthy later in life. About 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is found in our bones and teeth. In addition to building bones, calcium helps blood clot and allows the nerves to send messages, helps muscles contract, and assists in other bodily functions.
Each day, you lose calcium through your skin, nails, hair, sweat, and waste. Our bodies cannot produce calcium, which is why it’s important to consume enough calcium through our diets. When we do not get enough calcium for our body’s daily needs, calcium is taken from our bones. Vitamin D is important because it helps our bodies to absorb the calcium we consume.
Men and women under age 50 need the same recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D each day: 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400-800 IUs of vitamin D. These amounts increase with age.
Calcium is abundant in the foods we eat, including:
- Dairy products, such as low- and non-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Some green vegetables contain calcium in smaller amounts
- Calcium-fortified foods, including some juices, soymilk, cereals, breads, and bottled water
Building strong bones is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so consider ways in which you can make positive choices to impact your bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.