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Osteoporosis Health Center

Building Stronger Bones

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What About Milk or Supplements? continued...

So what does that leave? Besides veggies and fruits, many women, at least women over 50, may need some calcium supplements.

Women over age 50 need about 1,200 mg a day, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Should you take calcium citrate or calcium carbonate? Despite the raging debate on this, Cosman says the data are not conclusive. Consult your healthcare provider for a decision. 

Incidentally, if you do take a calcium pill, take it at a time of day when you did not just eat a lot of calcium. If you have milk and fortified juice at breakfast, Cosman recommends taking the calcium pill at lunch.

Exercise

Bones last longer if you stress them more. It's one of those medical conundrums. Exercising -- putting the weight of your body or an outside weight on the bone -- makes it lay down more bone material to strengthen it. "Use it or lose it!" quips Colbin. "Any exercise is better than none."

Cosman agrees. "Ideally, several times a week -- and you need aerobic, weight bearing, and resistance."

But be careful -- heavy weights or too vigorous exercise in women with osteoporosis might trigger a fracture.

Colbin even recommends against big, fat running shoes. "You don't want that cushioning for this," she says. Basically, she says, walk a lot and carry stuff.

It works. A study done the University of Toronto shows that aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or dance, improved the amount of calcium in the upper body and upper thighs, two areas at risk for fractures.

Medications for Bone Loss

If you have suffered bone loss, a number of medications exist to slow the resorption cycle so more bone remains. A medication called Forteo is the first to build bone. "It's very potent," says Cosman, "and is only for those diagnosed with osteoporosis, not for prevention." For one thing, Forteo is given by a daily injection.

A more commonly prescribed class of medications for bone loss are bisphosphonates. They have been shown to reduce the risk of fractures but are a little tricky to take orally (you have to sit up afterward to prevent burning of the esophagus).

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