By Shawna Page, Founder and CEO of femMED
You’ve heard it a 1,000 times as a kid. “Drink your milk if you want strong bones!” We all know that milk is a good source of calcium but if you’re like me, milk doesn’t rank high on the list of favourite beverages. Clearly I’m not alone. An astounding 75% of girls over the age of 15 consume less than the recommended daily allowance of calcium, and in women over the age of 45, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction and breast cancer. These are very frightening statistics that every female should know.
Building bone is a slow and gradual process that begins in the womb and leads up to the greatest bone development in the years before early adulthood. Bones usually reach their maximum mass when people are in their mid-thirties. By age 40, more bone is lost than is made (about 1% per year), and our bones start to become weaker. In women, bone loss may reach 3-5 % per year during the first five years after menopause because prior to menopause, estrogen helped to keep our bones healthy. At menopause, estrogen levels fall dramatically, and many women experience an accelerated rate of bone loss causing women to be at greater risk for osteoporosis than men.
The consequences of osteoporosis can be devastating. As bones slowly lose their mineral content and become fragile, even a gentle nudge can cause them to fracture. To make matters worse, there is often no prior indication of osteoporosis until bone loss has already occurred.
Not all calcium is created equal
We’ve all heard about the benefits of supplementing with calcium – but WHICH calcium is best? Calcium carbonate or calcium citrate? And combined with what ingredients? Making sense of all the research can be a daunting task. The consensus however, points to calcium citrate as the best choice. It is the most easily absorbed, can be taken by anyone, and new evidence has shown that calcium citrate plays a superior role in protecting against bone loss when compared to other forms of calcium. Aim for at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day in a comprehensive formula that includes 500 milligrams of magnesium. If magnesium is not present, calcium will not be properly deposited into bone and instead will deposit in soft tissue, causing kidney and gallstones, joint discomfort, as well as increased atherosclerotic plaque.
We’ve also heard a lot about vitamin D. It’s important in its own right, but it’s also essential to ensure adequate calcium absorption, bone mineralization and muscle function. A deficiency in this key vitamin is associated with decreased bone and muscle strength, resulting in higher risk of falls and fractures. We get most of our vitamin D through sun exposure, and only a limited amount from our diet. So it won’t come as a surprise that living north of the equator puts us at a distinct disadvantage due to the limited amount of sun exposure we get during the winter months. Supplemental vitamin D has therefore been strongly recommended by the experts, even more so after the age of 50. Aim for approximately 800 IUs of vitamin D per day.
Diet and exercise are also important. Bones require physical activity to stay strong and healthy, and respond to exercise by increasing in strength and mass. As for diet, ensure you consume adequate protein, fruit and vegetables and avoid excessive use of alcohol or caffeine-containing products such as tea, coffee or some sodas, which can stop your body from absorbing calcium. Smoking also contributes to bone loss so if you smoke…try your best to quit
Prevention of osteoporosis throughout your life is essential! Put these practices into place and take a stand against osteoporosis starting now.