Posts Tagged ‘bone density’

Bone Health: Is a Fracture in Your Future?

Osteoporosis is a condition of weak bones, which makes them more likely to break. Ten million Americans have osteoporosis and 44 million have thinning bones, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), a health organization dedicated to preventing osteoporosis and broken bones though awareness, education and research.

In the United States, one out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Twenty-four percent of seniors who suffer a hip fracture will die within one year of the event. If you are female your risk of having a bone break from osteoporosis is equal to your risks of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer COMBINED.

My mother died of complications from osteoporosis. She broke her left wrist when she was 74 years old, tripping in downtown Seattle when trying to catch a bus. Four years later she fell onto her right when getting out of bed in the middle of the night. Her right knee swelled up and she insisted it was “just my knee”, refusing to go to the doctor. Nearly 2 weeks later when the pain hadn’t gone away she finally agreed to get it checked but by that time the ends of her broken bones had slipped down and were already knitting back together. She suffered from the discomfort and inconvenience of her right leg one inch shorter than her left one for the rest of her life.

Although its complications show up in old age, osteoporosis starts in childhood. Nearly 90 percent of our peak bone mass is built before we turn 20 years old. At middle age that begins to reverse and we lose 1% of our bone mass per year, doubling to 2% per year for women after menopause. The thinner your bones are to start with, the more likely you’ll eventually experience a fracture.

Here are 5 tips to help keep your bones healthy and strong:

  1. Get the calcium and vitamin D you need every day. Eating a variety of foods rich in calcium is a critical step to building and maintaining strong bones. Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale are good sources of calcium, as are dairy products like milk and yoghurt. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are also helpful.
  1. Do regular weight bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Getting up and moving is one of the best things you can do for your bones. Weight-bearing activities like walking, cycling or dancing help signal your body to keep your bones strong.
  1. Don’t smoke.My mother smoked since she was 18 years old. Quitting smoking could have helped her avoid the fractures that plagued her final years.
  1. Talk to your doctor about your chances of osteoporosis and ask about bone density testing.If you have passed menopause or have taken certain drugs, especially prednisone or corticosteroids, you may have thin bones without knowing it. Testing your bone density helps determine how likely you are to have a bone break in the future and if you are at risk, your bone loss can be slowed with medicine and other strategies. My mother never realized she had thin bones until she broke her wrist. With screening and the bone-building drugs available today she may have avoided the hip fracture that shortened her life.
  1. Try eating prunes every day. A recent study showed that eating prunes every day could make your bones stronger. The study participants ate 100 grams (about 10 prunes) every day for a year. Luckily,   you don’t have to eat quite that many to benefit your bones. I suggest taking it slowly and building up to what you can manage, as prunes are a natural stool softener. I weighed out 100 gm of dried plums (prunes) and found that 100 grams is 9 of the Mariani® brand of dried plums sold by Costco. With my family history, I decided to eat at least 5 prunes a day, and see if I could work up from there.

Is there a fracture in your future? Keeping your bones strong and healthy includes getting enough calcium and Vitamin D, doing some weight bearing exercise every day, quitting smoking and asking your doctor or medical provider about bone density testing. If you do have osteoporosis, there are bone building drugs available, from tablets you take every week or every month like alendronate (Fosamax®), Actonel® or Boniva®, to injections given daily, every 6 months or even once a year. And even prunes!

To find out more about osteoporosis and how you can prevent it, check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation website at

Leave a Comment

Calcium and Your Bones

May 4th, 2015. Filed Under: consumer information.
Tags: , , ,

Q: My doctor says I need to take a calcium supplement. Which one is the best and how much of it do I need to take?

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) is encouraging Americans to learn more osteoporosis and how to keep their bones strong and healthy, including getting enough calcium and Vitamin D, doing some weight bearing exercise every day, quitting smoking and asking their doctor or medical provider about bone density testing.

Your muscles, nerves and blood vessels depend on calcium to work properly. If there is not enough calcium in your blood for your muscles and nerves, your body will grab calcium right out of your bones to make it up. Over time, you lose more and more bone until something gives: your hip breaks or your backbone collapses.

How do you know if you are getting enough calcium to prevent this from happening to you? The Institute of Medicine recommends 1000mg daily of calcium for men and women up to age 50, and 1200mg for adults older than 50 years of age. The National Institutes of Health recommends more calcium for postmenopausal women: 1500mg daily for women who are postmenopausal but not taking an estrogen supplement, and 1500mg for all women age 65 and older. These recommended amounts of calcium refer to the actual amount of calcium mineral in each pill, also called elemental calcium. For example each Citracal® tablet contains only 21% of elemental calcium, and Caltrate® has 40% elemental calcium in each tablet.

If you are taking a medicine to prevent or treat bone loss (such as Fosamax® or alendronate, Actonel® or risendronate, Boniva®, or calcitonin nose spray) it’s extra important to get plenty of calcium every day because these medicines work by putting calcium BACK INTO bones. It’s important to have enough calcium in your body so these medicines can do their job.

You’ll get about 300mg of calcium daily from your diet, including beans, nuts, and green vegetables, with an additional 300mg of calcium for every 8 ounce glass of milk, fortified orange juice, yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese you consume. Most men need 600mg and most women will need 600mg to 1200mg daily of a calcium supplement.

Most calcium supplements have either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate, with brand names and generics to choose from. Calcium carbonate is nearly twice as concentrated in elemental calcium as calcium citrate. The most concentrated are TUMS® antacid tablets, available as 500mg, 750mg and 1000mg each. Caltrate®, OsCal®, and Viactiv® each contain either 500mg or 600mg of calcium carbonate. Citracal® has calcium citrate in a variety of strengths, from 200mg to a slow-release form containing 600mg. Citracal® Gummies use tricalcium phosphate.

It’s best to pick a calcium supplement that you are willing and able to take regularly. A bottle of calcium pills sitting on the shelf because they’re too big to swallow won’t help your bones! Here are some tips to help you out:

6 Tips For Selecting A Calcium Supplement:

1.    Most women need 1000-1200mg of elemental calcium as a daily supplement.  That’s two each of calcium carbonate or about four each of calcium citrate for women, and half of that dose for men over 60 years of age. Most calcium supplements show calcium content on the label by a serving size of 2 each.

2.    Take supplemental Vitamin D to help your body absorb calcium.
Vitamin D is now recommended as 600 IU daily for folks up to 70 years of age and 800 IU daily for those over 70. You can also get Vitamin D from salmon (800 IU per 3 ounces), canned tuna (150 IU per 3 ounces), fortified milk (about 120 IU per 4 ounces), and fortified orange juice (80 IU per 4 ounces). Most calcium supplements contain Vitamin D but you can also take it separately.

3.    Maintain an adequate water or fluid intake to avoid kidney stones.  Calcium is not very soluble in water, and can form painful crystals or stones inside your kidney. Calcium citrate is less likely to do this than calcium carbonate supplements; talk to your doctor first before taking calcium if you have had kidney stones in the past.

4.    Choose calcium citrate if you take any medicines for stomach acidity, stomach ulcer, or hiatal hernia. Prilosec® or omeprazole, Prevacid® or lansoprazole, Zantac® or ranitidine, and other medicines like these reduce the acid in your stomach. Calcium carbonate needs an acidic stomach to be completely absorbed; calcium citrate is well absorbed regardless.

5.    If you have trouble with constipation, avoid calcium carbonate.

6.    Take advantage of chewable calcium if you can’t swallow large pills.
If you HATE to take big pills like me (I tend to gag on them or get them stuck partway down), try smaller tablets (Citracal® Petites), caramel-like chews (Viactiv®), or new gumdrop-like “gummies” (Caltrate®, Citracal®).

To find out more about osteoporosis and how you can prevent it from the National Osteoporosis Foundation stop by their website at

Leave a Comment