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Osteoporosis: Keeping the Bone Thief at Bay

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 27 Feb 2012 | comments*Discuss
Osteoporosis Bone Loss Fracture Bone

It could happen suddenly, at any time, all it takes is a slip on the bathroom floor. You might think it wasn't too bad but painful enough to have it checked. At the hospital you find out you've broken your wrist, then you find out why….

Osteoporosis is common: all too common. It is estimated that 25%-30% of all women will break or fracture a bone because of osteoporosis, and by the age of 75, 50% of women have osteoporosis. Unfortunately there are no early warning signs, a broken bone or osteoporotic fracture is usually the first indication

The bone thief doesn't arrive over night. When you are younger, your bone constantly replenishes itself. As you age this process slows down. Between ages 35-40, you begin to lose bone mass. After menopause, when your body is no longer making estrogen, bone loss accelerates. Over time, bones may become brittle, and too weak to withstand normal stress by this time you already have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis does not need to be a consequence of aging, however. It is largely a preventable disease. So how you keep the bone thief at bay? Many people mistakenly believe that the answer is to increase calcium intake, yet the amount of calcium in your diet does not correlate with the amount of calcium that your body retains. Research has shown that keeping healthy bones depends more on preventing calcium loss than on increasing calcium intake, in fact, eating too much calcium in the absence of other nutrients may actually lead to osteoporosis. Other substances are needed to prevent calcium loss, such as boron, phosphorous and vitamin D. There are also other tactics you can use to protect calcium levels. Reducing meat protein, which causes calcium to leach away in urine, is just one. There are many other easy adjustments to make right now, so the bone thief won't sneak upon you later.

Exercise and Osteoporosis

Weight bearing exercise (that you do on feet, that works the bones and muscles against gravity) and muscle contraction combined have been shown to effectively increase bone density in the spine. It is recommended that an individual perform 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 4 times weekly to increase bone mass.


For people with osteoporosis or low bone mass, care must be taken when exercising especially with regard to posture and body mechanics. Activities that require twisting of the spine or bending forward from the waist (such as conventional sit-ups or toe touches) may be dangerous. Individuals already diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis should discuss their exercise program with their physician to avoid fractures.

Diet and Osteoporosis

Adequate calcium intake is critical in keeping bones strong, and it is estimated that approximately 70% of people do not regularly ingest adequate amounts of calcium or vitamin D. Vitamin D is also critical, to ensure absorption and retention of calcium in the bones.

The recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D for adults are as follows:

  • For pre-menopausal women 25-50 years old and post-menopausal women on estrogen replacement therapy, 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day with 400 i.u. of Vitamin D. 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended for pregnant or lactating women.
  • For postmenopausal women less than age 65 not on estrogen replacement therapy, 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended along with 400-800 i.u. of Vitamin D.
  • For men ages 25-65, 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day is recommended.
  • For all people (women and men) over age 65, 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day is sufficient.
Foods that contain calcium include: dairy products (e.g., milk, yoghurt, and cheese), dark green vegetables (e.g. spinach), grains, beans and some fish. Calcium supplements are also available.Vitamin D comes from sunshine, fatty fish, liver, and fortified foods like milk, orange juice and cereals. Vitamin D supplements are also available.

Minimize protein and sodium intake. Diets that are high in protein and/or sodium increase the loss of calcium through the urine and contribute to decreased calcium availability.

Amounts above 2000 milligrams of calcium per day can be harmful to the kidneys and cause kidney stones. However, when calcium is taken in the recommended dose there is no increase in kidney stone formation. People with pre-existing kidney disease should consult their physician.

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