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One of the most frequently asked questions by my female patients in their 40’s is "how much calcium should I be taking every day as a dietary supplement?" Many women believe that taking over 1,000 mg per day of calcium is required. The reason women ask the question is because they want to keep their bones strong and prevent osteoporosis, which is a weakening of the bone matrix.
Osteoporosis is the leading cause of bone fracture in adults. When patients are interested in good bone health I talk about all the factors they need to consider to prevent bone fractures. This is a concern for women, especially later in life. In May, 2011, a study was published in British Medical Journal that showed that taking extra calcium does not reduce the risk fracture later in later in life. In different countries the recommended amount of calcium for women over 50 varies. For example, after analyzing data collected by women in Sweden researchers concluded that 750 mg is the best dosage to reduce the risk of fracture.
When I talk to patients I try to explain that bone health is more than calcium. Osteoporosis literally means porous bones. Many people think of their bones as static like the skeletons we see on TV. In reality our bones are remodeling themselves all of the time. Bones are made up of minerals, vitamins, organic and inorganic matter. Our body needs all of the building blocks to create healthy bones, and calcium is just one of the materials needed. Coffee, alcohol and smoking have a negative effect on calcium balance in the body. We also need to consider vitamin D levels in bone health. In order for our bodies to create the active form of vitamin D3, we have to have a properly functioning liver and kidneys. Magnesium, boron and B-vitamins may also impact osteoporosis and are also important supplements to take.
There are several lifestyle factors that also help prevent osteoporosis. Exercise, especially weight bearing exercises, help maintain healthy bones. All of these are considerations I share with patients who are concerned with bone health, along with appropriate bone density testing.