Are you getting enough calcium to help your bones stay strong and healthy?
Most women do not get enough calcium in their diets to keep their bones healthy and strong throughout her lifetime. This can lead to bone loss over time and weak bones especially as we age.
Inadequate calcium intake over time and lack of specific exercises contribute to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is the medical term for weak bones. The bones loose their strength and flexibility, like a dried out twig. They are weakened to the point that they may break while doing simple activities or with a fall. There are no symptoms of this disorder until a bone is broken.
The Hawaiian ancestors ate a lot of poi. They did not have issues with weak bones. Changes in our diets over time have contributed to our low calcium intake.
Calcium is the building block of normal bone. An inactive lifestyle also contributes as the bones are not used to their full potential. Some medications can make your body lose calcium, along with caffeine and carbonated beverages.
Calcium can be found in green leafy vegetables, such as greens, broccoli or edamame. Dairy and soy products also contain calcium.
It can be obtained by eating calcium enriched foods such as cereal and some fruit juices. This means that extra calcium has been added to the food.
For example, a glass of calcium fortified grapefruit juice has 400 milligrams of calcium. Look for the calcium on the labels of the foods you purchase. Reading the labels can give you a good idea of how much calcium you are consuming on an average day.
Most of us do not get enough and may need to supplement our diets.
Calcium supplements come in many forms such as antacids (Tums), tablets (calcium citrate) and soft calcium chews. The best calcium form is the one you are actually going to take. Many people buy supplements but don’t take them on a regular basis.
Also remember that your body can only absorb 500 milligrams at a time. So you shouldn’t take them all at once.
Vitamin D is another vitamin that helps bones. Just fifteen minutes of sunlight can provide all the vitamin D you need in a day.
Those who live in darker climates may need to supplement with 800 international units of vitamin D a day.
Most women need at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day to maintain their bones. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding need 1,500milligrams per day. Young girls are building their bones and thus need the same. Women who are postmenopausal lose bone each day. Postmenopausal women need 1,500 milligrams a day just to maintain their bone strength.
Exercise works to direct the calcium into the bones so they stay strong. The exercise you choose needs to be weight bearing like walking, running, hiking, yoga, tai chi or qi gong. Even doing simple weight lifting with the arms can strengthen your bones.
We need to exercise at least four days a week for 30 minutes to help ourselves stay healthy and strong. Pick exercises that you like as you will be more likely to stick with it.
A bone scan, also called dexa scan, is an x-ray test that can measure bone strength. It tests for osteoporosis. Important areas are the hip and spine.
Those with osteoporosis can be treated with specific medications to help their bones retain strength or even get stronger. This is in addition to weight bearing exercise and adequate calcium intake.
A visit with a physical therapist can help personalize your exercise routine to maximize bone strength and minimize fall risks.
If you are over the age of 50, talk with your doctor about whether a bone scan would be a good idea for you. This also gives you an opportunity to talk more about a healthy lifestyle. Take the time now to care for yourself.
• Dr.Melani Harker has a special interest in general obstetrics and gynecology with emphasis on maintaining wellness, identifying healthy lifestyle behaviors, and medical and surgical management of gynecological conditions. For an appointment, call 245-1511.