Magnesium is added to some calcium supplements. Although it plays only a small role in bone health, it is an important mineral that works with calcium in the body. Magnesium is usually found in very small amounts in multivitamins, and typical diets supply no more than half of the RDA of 400 mg per day. Magnesium in your calcium supplement is not essential, but may be beneficial for overall health.
Vitamin K, which is found mainly in green, leafy vegetables, plays an important role in calcium regulation and bone formation. Low levels of circulating vitamin K have been linked with low bone density. A report from the Nurses' Health Study suggests that women who get at least 110 micrograms of vitamin K a day are 30 percent less likely to break a hip than women who get less than that. Data from the Framingham Heart Study also shows an association between high vitamin K intake and reduced risk of hip fracture in men and women, and increased bone mineral density in women. Getting one or more servings per day of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dark green lettuce, collard greens, or kale should be enough to meet the daily recommended target of 120 micrograms per day for men and 90 micrograms per day for women.
What to Avoid
Although a balanced diet can aid in calcium, vitamin D and magnesium absorption, high levels of protein, caffeine, alcohol and salt in the diet are thought to increase calcium excretion. And while no conclusive evidence shows that soft drinks weaken bones, it's best to limit these as well. The Framingham Osteoporosis Study has found that "older women who drink cola every day have lower bone mineral density than those who drink it less than once a month." This may be due to cola's high levels of phosphorous, which may alter the dietary balance between calcium and phosphorous thereby weakening bones.
Calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken in small doses (500 mg or less) several times throughout the day. In many individuals, calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken with food. It is important to check supplement labels to ensure that the product meets United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards.
The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day for adults. To start choose a multivitamin that supplies 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day. If your multi only has 400 IU of vitamin D, consider taking an extra supplement to get you up to 1,000 IU or 2,000 IU per day. Some people may need a larger dose to ensure adequate blood levels, particularly if they have darker skin, spend winters in the northern U.S., or have little exposure to direct sunlight. If you fall into these groups, ask your physician to order a blood test for vitamin D.
Physical activity that puts some strain on bones causes the bones to retain and possibly even gain density throughout life. Cells within the bone sense this stress and respond by making the bone stronger and denser. Such "weight-bearing" exercises include weight lifting, jogging, hiking, stair-climbing, step aerobics, dancing, racquet sports, and other activities that require your muscles to work against gravity. Exercise also plays an important role as improving coordination. With greater muscle strength, one can often avoid falls and situations that cause fractures.
Osteoporosis can slow you down and may even prevent you from doing the things you enjoy. Be proactive and consider your bone health today.
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Chrissy Wellington is co-author of Navigating the Supermarket: A Nutritious Guide to Shopping Well. To pick up a copy of her book, please visit willpowermatrix.com/public/120.cfm.
Canyon Ranch pioneered the evolution of wellness lifestyle and has been an industry leader for 30 years. Lead by a team of expert physicians and other health and wellness specialists, Canyon Ranch operates the world's most celebrated collection of life-enhancement properties with the goal to inspire people to make a commitment to healthy living.