Calcium is necessary to keep your body functioning optimally. This nutrient maintains the function of the nerves, muscles and the heart. At the same time, it is equally important for the strength of your bones. Not getting enough calcium in your system can cause osteoporosis, but does this mean calcium alone can prevent osteoporosis? To learn more, read on.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is characterized as a disease that causes the bones to become fragile and thin. Eventually, they can fracture. People suffering from the said disease have a considerably lower bone mass, which in turn causes fractures.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Until osteoporosis does not develop, symptoms of bone loss do not reveal themselves immediately. But even then, osteoporosis may not cause any symptoms at all in its early stages. As osteoporosis gets worse, the following symptoms could arise:
- Loss of height
- Bones break easily
- A backache
- Stooped posture
What is Calcium?
Calcium is much more than a nutrient, it is a mineral that your body cannot do without. It can be found in a variety of foods, nutrition supplements and in medicines like Tums.
Bone Mass and Calcium Facts
Bones may seem lifeless, but on the contrary, they are living tissue. Through a process referred to as resorption, the body breaks down old bones for new ones. When a bone is broken down faster than what is being deposited, it causes osteoporosis and bone weakness.
Bones are made from protein and later fortified by calcium. If you fail to have enough calcium daily, your body will extract it from your bones instead, which causes loss of bone mass and strength. Ultimately, if left unchecked, it can lead to fragile and thin bones and even osteoporosis.
It is worth noting that 90% of bone mass is developed before you hit 20, while half of that is developed between 11-15 years of age. For stronger bones, adolescents and children need to consume the required amount of calcium from their diet to develop the bone mass needed for the rest of their lives.
The good news is that people that are 20 and above can still take precautionary measures to protect their bones since bone mass can be developed until a little over 30 years of age. But after that, you can protect your bones by consuming the required calcium, because it is necessary for maintaining bone mass after all.
Here’s how calcium works:
- Once calcium is consumed, several nutrients like Vitamin D, make it possible for your body to absorb calcium.
- Calcium that is not needed is transported to other parts of the body where it is added to bones as bone mass. It is stored for when your body may need it later on.
- If there is a lack of calcium, it is extracted from your bones to be transported in the bloodstream.
Calcium Requirement for Adults
The amount of calcium required varies by age. The following levels of calcium intake are recommended by the National Institutes of Health:
- Adults between 19-50 years – 1000mg
- Adult men between 51- 70 years – 1000mg
- Adult women between 51- 70 years – 1200mg
- Adults that are 71 years or older – 1200mg
- Teens that are Pregnant and breastfeeding – 1300mg
- Adults that are Pregnant and breastfeeding – 1000mg
Can Calcium Prevent Osteoporosis?
Increasing calcium intake is imperative to preventing osteoporosis. But it cannot protect you from bone loss resulting from specific diseases, medications, alcoholism, smoking or lower estrogen levels.
Is too much Calcium a Bad thing?
Adults between 19-50 years should not consume more than 2500mg of calcium in a single day. While Adults over 50 should not have more than 2000mg in a day. Although, dietary calcium is not dangerous, having it in the form of a supplement can have health risks.
Health risks associated with excessive consumption of calcium include constipation, kidney stones, prostate cancer and lower absorption of zinc and iron.
Prevent Osteoporosis Effectively
To prevent osteoporosis and for healthy bones, here is what you need to do:
- Cut down on your alcohol and caffeine intake
- Stop smoking
- Adopt a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
- Indulge in weight-bearing exercises like strength training, jogging, and walking, but be consistent
Remember, you can’t rely on calcium alone to deal with osteoporosis. Agreed, it plays a vital role in keeping your bones strong and healthy, but there are several other factors that need to be considered to avoid getting in way over your head. For instance, consume enough vitamin D to assist the absorption of calcium; or stay clear of things that impair calcium absorption i.e. excess protein, sodium, oxalate, and corticosteroids.
This does not mean you can treat yourself if you have osteoporosis. It is best you stick to what your doctor recommends, and if possible, make as many positive changes to the way you live your life. See your doctor right away if you fall and hurt your shoulder or hip joint. Rest assured, you will be on the road to recovery in no time.