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Calcium and bones

Alternative Names

Bone strength and calcium

Information

Calcium is a mineral that is important for making healthy bones. (Phosphorous is another important mineral for healthy bones.)

Calcium cannot be made by the body. The body gets the calcium it needs through the food you eat. If you do not get enough calcium in your diet or if your body does not absorb enough, your bones can get weak or not grow properly.

Bone density refers to how much calcium and other types of minerals are present in a section of your bone. Bone density is highest between ages 25 - 35. It goes down as you get older. This can result in brittle, fragile bones that are prone to fractures, even without injury.

As you age, your body still needs calcium to keep your bones dense and strong. Most experts have recommended the following:

  • Get at least 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and 800 - 1,000 international units of vitamin D.
  • Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
  • Your doctor may recommend a supplement to give you the calcium and vitamin D you need.

Some expert groups are not sure the benefits and safety of this amount of Vitamin D and calcium outweigh the risks. Be sure to discuss with your doctor if supplements are a good choice for you.

Follow a diet that provides the proper amount of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. This will not completely stop bone loss, but it helps ensure that the body has a supply of the materials it needs to build bones.

High-calcium foods include:

  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and collard greens
  • Low-fat milk
  • Salmon
  • Sardines (with the bones)
  • Tofu
  • Yogurt

References

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) Clinician's Guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation, Washington, DC. 2013.

Moyer VA. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation to prevent fractures in adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2013 May 7;158(9):691-6.

Rosen C. Osteoporosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 251.

Lorenzo JA, Canalis E, Raisz LG. Metabolic bone disease. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 29.

Updated: 11/10/2013

Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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