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Understanding Osteoporosis -- Diagnosis and Treatment

An Osteoporosis Diet for Strong Bones continued...

The recommended daily intake of calcium for men is 1,000 mg per day (25 to 70 years old) and 1,200 mg per day from age 71 and up.

Because most women take in only about one-half or one-third as much calcium as they need through their diet, most doctors recommend calcium supplements to make up the difference. Calcium supplements are available in many forms, but calcium citrate and calcium gluconate appear to be more effective at reducing bone loss.

To help your body absorb calcium, doctors suggest taking vitamin D supplements, from 400 to 800 IU daily. The vitamin D is needed to help your body move calcium and other minerals into or out of bones; without vitamin D, dietary calcium is eliminated from the body.

Because calcium supplements can inhibit the absorption of certain drugs, check with your doctor before beginning calcium supplements if you are on any medication. You may need to take supplements at a different time of day than other medications.

Other Ways to Maintain Bone Health With Diet

Here are some easy ways to increase the amount of calcium in your diet:

  • Add nonfat dry milk to everyday foods and beverages, including soups, stews, and casseroles. Each teaspoon of dry milk adds about 20 mg of calcium to your diet.
  • Add a little vinegar to the water you use to make soup stock from bones. The vinegar will dissolve some of the calcium out of the bones for a calcium-fortified soup. A pint of this soup can contain as much as 1,000 mg of calcium.
  • In addition to eating calcium-rich foods, avoid phosphorus-rich ones, which can promote bone loss. High-phosphorus foods include red meats, soft drinks, and those with phosphate food additives. Excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine are also thought to reduce the amount of calcium absorbed by the body and should be avoided by anyone with osteoporosis.
  • To help keep estrogen levels from dropping sharply after menopause and help prevent osteoporosis, some practitioners advise postmenopausal women to eat more foods containing plant estrogens, especially tofu, soybean milk, and other soy products. However, there is no evidence to prove that these foods help prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.

Exercise and Bone Health

Not only must you get enough calcium in your diet, you must also exercise to maintain strong bones. Studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise -- which puts stress on bones, such as running, walking, tennis, ballet, stair climbing, aerobics, and resistance exercises such as weightlifting -- reduce bone loss and help prevent osteoporosis. To benefit the most from the exercise, you should try to do it at least three times per week for 30 to 45 minutes but even lesser amounts can be beneficial. Swimming and bicycle riding, although good cardiovascular exercises, do not appear to be as helpful in preventing osteoporosis because they're not weight bearing.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on March 24, 2014

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