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Boning Up on Calcium: Supplements for Bone Health

Popping calcium for better bone health? Get the most from that supplement with these tips.

Why Is Calcium Important for Bone Health? continued...


Calcium (mg)

Birth to 6 months


6 months to 1 year


1-3 years


4-8 years


9-18 years


19-50 years


51-70 years


Over 70 years


While 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day is sometimes considered the maximum, many osteoporosis experts think that higher levels are preferable.

"A lot of rheumatologists will go up to 1,500 milligrams a day of calcium in people who are either over 70 or who have a high risk of osteoporosis," says John Schousboe, MD, director of the Park Nicollet Clinic Osteoporosis Center in St. Louis Park, Minn.

However, more calcium isn't always better. Getting too much calcium -- 2,500 milligrams or above -- can increase your risk of some health problems, like kidney stones.

Do I Need Calcium Supplements for Bone Health?

Osteoporosis is often a silent disease -- you don't know your bones are weak until you break one. So what do you do?

Start by seeing your doctor. Together, you can discuss your diet and work out a rough estimate of your calcium intake.

If you're coming up short, then you either need to improve your diet or take a calcium supplement for bone health to bump you up to the recommended level.

"Although some people with osteoporosis get enough calcium from their diets, I think most will wind up needing a calcium supplement," says Schousboe.

Keep in mind that the numbers may not tell the whole story. Even if it looks like you're getting enough calcium, you might not be absorbing enough of this mineral. That can be due to many factors, like smoking, using certain medications, and many health conditions. So make sure to have a frank discussion with your doctor about any other factors that might increase your risk of osteoporosis.

Vitamin D Supplements for Bone Health

While calcium is crucial, taking it alone might not be enough. To actually get calcium into your bones, the body relies on other vitamins, minerals, and hormones.

The most important may be vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from the kidneys and intestines -- calcium that would otherwise pass out of the body as waste. And according to osteoporosis experts, vitamin D deficiency is disturbingly common.

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Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

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