One day while lifting weights with a girlfriend she mentioned how lifting can strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. I was a little taken aback because this was a fact I did not remember from all those health classes they make you take in school.
I looked it up, and she was right. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that, “Weight-bearing exercise is the best for your bones because it forces you to work against gravity.”
This got me thinking. There are plenty of other things in life us women actively try to prevent (i.e. weight gain, cancer, wrinkles etc.), but what can we do to help prevent osteoporosis? Turns out there is a lot we can do, starting with calcium.
Osteoporosis gets the moniker “silent disease” because the bone loss happens slowly over time. You don’t just wake up with it one day. The NIH reports that, “People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a hip to fracture or a vertebra to collapse.”
The NIH also reports that women have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis because menopausal changes may cause us to lose bone tissue faster than men.
I checked the NIH website and found that people ranging in age from 19 to 50 years old should be getting 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Sounds easy enough, but when I looked into my own daily calcium intake, I was shocked by how little I was getting.
On average, my daily diet is lacking anywhere from 40-60% of the daily recommended calcium intake. So I was not surprised to find that according to the NIH, “National nutrition surveys show that many people consume less than half the amount of calcium recommended to build and maintain healthy bones.”
The very first tip the NIH offers for preventing osteoporosis is that, “an inadequate supply of calcium over a lifetime contributes to the development of osteoporosis.” It goes on to explain that studies have shown association between inadequate calcium levels and low bone mass, higher fracture rates, and rapid bone loss.
One way to ensure you’re getting enough calcium is to make sure you’re eating enough calcium rich foods. According to the NIH, these sources include: “low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream; dark green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, collard greens, bok choy, and spinach; sardines and salmon with bones; tofu; almonds; and foods fortified with calcium, such as orange juice, cereals, and breads.”
The NIH also reports that even if you’re consuming the recommended daily amount of calcium, certain types of medications may prevent your body from being able to absorbing calcium adequately. The risk of taking a medication that prevents calcium absorption may increase with age simply because“older adults are more likely to have chronic medical problems.
It’s also important to consider that your body’s calcium needs can change overtime. According to the NIH, the body needs more calcium during childhood and adolescence because the bones are growing so quickly, but also during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Postmenopausal women and older men also need to consume more calcium because of the changes they’re experiencing. And it’s also important to know that as as you age, your body doesn’t do as great of a job absorbing calcium and other nutrients as it used to.
So, what would help? If you know you’re not getting enough calcium in your daily diet, or that you may be taking a medication that inhibits calcium absorption in your body, pay a visit to your doctor and consider taking a daily supplement.