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Prevention

From the National Institutes of Health's Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center

To reach optimal peak bone mass and continue building new bone tissue as you age, there are several factors you should consider.

Calcium: An inadequate supply of calcium over a lifetime contributes to the development of osteoporosis. Many published studies show that low calcium intake appears to be associated with low bone mass, rapid bone loss, and high fracture rates. National nutrition surveys show that many people consume less than half the amount of calcium recommended to build and maintain healthy bones. Food sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream; dark green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, collard greens, bok choy, and spinach; sardines and salmon with bones; tofu; almonds; and foods fortified with calcium, such as orange juice, cereals, and breads. Depending upon how much calcium you get each day from food, you may need to take a calcium supplement.

Calcium needs change during one's lifetime. The body's demand for calcium is greater during childhood and adolescence, when the skeleton is growing rapidly, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Postmenopausal women and older men also need to consume more calcium. Also, as you age, your body becomes less efficient at absorbing calcium and other nutrients. Older adults also are more likely to have chronic medical problems and to use medications that may impair calcium absorption.

Recommended Calcium Intakes *
Ages Milligrams/day
Infants 0-6 months 200
6 months-1 year 260
1-3 700
4-8 1,000
9-13 1,300
14-18 1,300
19-30 1,000
31-50 1,000
51-70 1,200
70 or older 1,200
Pregnant or lactating Milligrams/day
14-18 1,300
19-50 1,000
* Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 2010.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver. Many people obtain enough vitamin D naturally; however, studies show that vitamin D production decreases in the elderly, in people who are housebound, and for people in general during the winter. Adults should have vitamin D intakes of 600 IU (International Units) daily up to age 70. Men and women over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily.

Exercise: Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Weight-bearing exercise is the best for your bones because it forces you to work against gravity. Examples include walking, hiking, jogging, stair climbing, weight training, tennis, and dancing.

Smoking: Smoking is bad for your bones as well as for your heart and lungs. Women who smoke have lower levels of estrogen compared to nonsmokers, and they often go through menopause earlier. Smokers also may absorb less calcium from their diets.

Alcohol: Regular consumption of 2 to 3 ounces a day of alcohol may be damaging to the skeleton, even in young women and men. Those who drink heavily are more prone to bone loss and fractures, because of both poor nutrition and increased risk of falling.

Medications that cause bone loss: The long-term use of glucocorticoids (medications prescribed for a wide range of diseases, including arthritis, asthma, Crohn's disease, lupus, and other diseases of the lungs, kidneys, and liver) can lead to a loss of bone density and fractures. Bone loss can also result from long-term treatment with certain antiseizure drugs — such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and barbiturates; gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) drugs used to treat endometriosis; excessive use of aluminum-containing antacids; certain cancer treatments; and excessive thyroid hormone. It is important to discuss the use of these drugs with your physician and not to stop or change your medication dose on your own.

Prevention medications: Various medications are available for preventing and treating osteoporosis. See section entitled Therapeutic Medications.

Last updated January 5, 2012




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